Meet the Cast of Wyeth Airlines Flight Thirteen, Then and Now

Wyeth Airlines Flight Thirteen, by M.F.A. in Playwriting candidate Lena Barnard, follows a tight-knit group of middle school friends as they lose sight of the imagined world that has kept them together. Surrounded by the pressure to fit in and find love, they struggle to hold onto the things that once gave them comfort, adjusting to new ways of viewing the world around them. In order to portray these young adolescence in a truthful and meaningful way, the cast of Wyeth Airlines Flight Thirteen has been reminiscing on their own middle school years; an awkward time that also served as an important time for self-discovery. We spoke with each of them to learn more about the process of working on Wyeth Airlines Flight Thirteen and how it has reminded them of their own middle school experiences.

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An Interview with poolboy00

man with curly hair and a mustache smiling in his video window with an image of a cow and the ocean behind him and chat responses in the corner

At the end of the spring 2020 semester, preliminary plans were being laid to stage one of Sam Mayer’s (M.F.A. in Playwriting candidate) scripts as part of UTNT (UT New Theatre), Part One in fall 2020. However, with the hopes of in-person theatre in the fall waning away, Mayer and director Mike Steele made a bold and brave choice to create a completely different work that was born from and lived through its virtual medium, rather than having to mold a theatrical production to a digital space. What resulted was eight weeks of experimentation and devising on the platform Twitch, leading to a retrospective, dramatic and cathartic virtual performance that examines the lives of real people when they are consciously performing in front of a screen.

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Beyond the Screen: Telling the Story of LA RUTA

five actresses performing remotely on a screen

The story encapsulated in Isaac Gómez’s La Ruta is immediate, centering around nine women whose lives have been altered – shattered, even – by the ongoing femicides near Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Though it’s set nearly three decades ago, the struggles, fears and hopes of these women are very much alive as the number of disappearances continues to rise to this day. To harness the essence of these women and their struggles in a play seems a daunting task in and of itself, but strip away the stage, the lighting fixtures and the set and the hurdles of telling this story seem nearly insurmountable. This is where the creative team of La Ruta found themselves midway through the summer; this is where their journey of innovating, experimenting and reimagining the play began.

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Faculty and Students Started the Semester with a Virtual Welcome Week

"Welcome Home" over a picture of the UT Tower

Though the pandemic has forced students everywhere to reimagine the start of the fall semester, the Theatre and Dance Undergraduate Advisory Council (UAC), with the help of our brilliant faculty, facilitated a warm welcome for incoming and returning Longhorns. To accommodate today’s virtual world, the UAC planned a week of digital events to introduce incoming students to the department, culminating in this year’s Convocation. In a video circulated to all undergraduate and graduate students, the UAC compiled introductions and words of encouragement from faculty in all areas of the department. Along with providing descriptions of their areas of study, the faculty communicated their belief in the resilience and adaptability of the strong community of artists that populate the F. Loren Winship Drama Building.

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dancers in different locations in front of a brick wall

There was no shortage of creativity and ingenuity in this year’s Evolution showcase, an annual collaboration between student designers and choreographers from the Department of Theatre and Dance and the School of Design and Creative Technologies. Though students didn’t have the B. Iden Payne Theatre to house their larger-than-life creations, in the true spirit of Evolution, they experimented with new forms and innovations, reimagining their performances for the virtual sphere. We’ve collected performances from this year’s month-long virtual showcase, which took place July 30-August 20, 2020, featuring selections of Evolution (Virtual Edition) performances that exhibited the resilience and adaptability of our students, as well as insight into the process of remote collaboration.

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An Interview with Libby Carr on Attending the M.F.A. Playwrights’ Workshop

cast of SAD GIRL HOURS through Zoom and Libby Carr's headshot

We recently spoke with undergraduate student Libby Carr, who attended National New Play Network’s M.F.A. Playwrights’ Workshop this year. As one of only two undergraduate student playwrights selected nationwide, Carr participated in a virtual workshop of their play sad girl hours with a professional director, dramaturg and a collection of established actors. Carr shared their inspiration and goals for the play, the origins of this work in Patrick Shaw’s playwriting course and the lessons they have learned from working within a collaborative theatre community.

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Theatre Students Have Instrumental Role in Welcoming Incoming Longhorns

Anna Skidis Vargas headshot, Andrea L. Hart headshot and Zoey Crow headshot

Thousands of incoming freshmen and transfer students are preparing for their first days as Longhorns, a time filled with excitement and anxiety even without the backdrop of a global pandemic. In a typical year, they’d be counting down the days to UT Orientation, when stepping on campus signifies the beginning of their college journey. This year is different. This year, the first step on their college journey is through a computer screen. Luckily, thanks to a collaboration with Theatre and Dance students Andrea L. Hart, Anna Skidis Vargs and Zoey Crow, these incoming Longhorns get to experience the energy of The University of Texas at Austin, despite being unable to attend orientation on the 40 Acres.

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Ariane Stier on Winning the 2020 LMÁS Senior Thesis Award

Ariane Stier headshot and cast meeting over Zoom

We recently interviewed 2020 Latino Media & Arts Studies Senior Thesis Award winner and recent B.A. in Theatre and Dance graduate Ariane Stier. Her project, “Mírame: Deconstructing Latina Representation and Empowerment in Performance,” takes a critical look at the film and theatre industry’s representation of Latinas and advocates for more truthful, complex Latinx characters. Stier discussed her process and plans for the project, as well as her inspirations and goals as a theatre artist who is eager to amplify the voices of those who have been historically silenced.

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An Inside Look at the Dance Area’s Virtual Performance Showcase

Three dancers posing

Each semester, members of the dance area have traditionally come together to present a showcase of student work known as the “Dance Area Performance Showcase” or DAPS. This year, with the shift to online learning amidst shelter-in-place protocols, faculty and students have had to adjust their plans to preserve some semblance of what a normal semester would look like. For our dancers, this included reinventing their DAPS showcase as a YouTube playlist; sharing videos of online classes and experiments as well as virtual performances of their final projects.

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Celebrating the Class of 2020

Collection of graduation images

Graduation is now behind us, but this year’s commencement and the final semester of many students’ college careers will be remembered for years to come. The resilience and diligence of our students when faced with unprecedented challenges has been nothing short of inspirational. Without the ability to honor these graduates in a usual commencement ceremony, programs within the Department of Theatre and Dance utilized new and creative ways to celebrate their seniors, including everything from car parades to socially distant yard processionals and Zoom celebrations.

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