With construction of the expansion of the Charles E. Maedgen Theatre, the Theatre and Dance Complex, complete, the start of a new season is upon the students, faculty and staff of the Texas Tech School of Theatre and Dance.
Kyla Olson, assistant professor of practice in the School of Theatre and Dance, said each performance space offers a different vibe. The Maedgen Theatre is a great, large space, while the black box theatre is more intimate. The studio space is the smallest and is going to allow for more intimate theatre and smaller pieces of work.
The new building is going to revitalize the department, Olson said. With these new spaces, there is more room and more areas to collaborate for the students.
“We’re giving (students) opportunities to explore production levels within each of these spaces, which we haven’t been able to do before,” she said.
Last season, performances were site-specific, which was a great opportunity for the school to try something new, Olson said. It gave students an opportunity to think outside the box.
The new building also has provided some momentum and creativity to shift into the upcoming season, she said. Now that students have these new spaces, Olson said they will be inspired by how these spaces work for them and what all the possibilities will be.
“I feel like last season kind of opened our eyes into working in different ways from what we’re used to, and I think we’re going to continue that this season,” Olson said.
Cory Norman, director of marketing and communications and the company manager for the School of Theatre and Dance, said there are going to be more capabilities in the new building that students have not used before, such as the black box theatre’s technologies.
The biggest benefit will come not in the performances or the productions, Norman said, but in the pre-productions and rehearsals because now they have the space to do it.
“Before, we would spend a couple of weeks over in a classroom in the English and Philosophy building which is nowhere near the size of the stage they’d be performing on,” he said. “Now, we’ve got all this rehearsal room to give them a better sense of what it will look like.”
Norman said they used to be locked into a small space without flexible seating, but it forced them to be creative with scenery and blocking.
“Space is what we needed,” he said. “We had one classroom in the new building, and we didn’t have any spaces for students to collaborate, so this new building with collaboration areas will really benefit collaboration and creativity.”
Calling it a “vastly new” season, Norman said there is a lot of excitement both within the school and the Lubbock community.
“It’s going to be a terrific season,” he said. “On my end of things, we’ve already sold more season tickets than we have in the last five seasons.”
Dean Nolen, head of the acting and directing department for the School of Theatre and Dance, said he is most excited for the first production in the new black box theatre. It is a true black box, he said, and it is a transformative space that can be anything they want it to be.
“To be able to work with these students with the room to grow is thrilling and is something we’ve been looking forward to since we found out what was happening,” he said. “To see it and live in it now is a delight.”
With the addition of the new black box theatre and the Maedgen Theatre, students and faculty will get a sense of how they can use this new space and what its potential is, Nolen said.
A new building signals a number of things, Nolen said, one of them being that the college strongly supports the growth that has been happening in the School of Theatre and Dance. Much of the work that Mark Charney, director of the School of Theatre and Dance, has done has pushed the faculty, staff and students to create initiatives and discover what interests them as artists, he said.
“Students become re-inspired with the possibility of what else can now happen and how they can further productions. The possibilities are summed up in one word: boundless,” Nolen said. “The new building has given faculty, staff and students the boost and has added to the positive energy moving forward.”
Although the Maedgen Theatre just opened its door, Nolen said this construction is only Phase 1. Phase 2 will be tearing down the building that surrounds the Maedgen Theatre. In its place will be a state-of-the-art facility that will house the school’s costume shop and the dean’s offices, he said.
Along with the new building, Nolen said doing new plays is also an exciting aspect of this season, as well as the devised work they will do at the end of the year. The plays reflect the excitement and newness surrounding the upcoming season.
“It’s a season of new plays and older plays rediscovered. It’s a lot of new, and some great old, so it’s a great season for me as a faculty member to look at,” he said. “The opportunities to stretch and grow are exciting to imagine, and it’s great as a faculty to see students actually commit to that growth and change.”
Nolen said he hopes students around campus will come by and see a play this year. To him, it is important that people expose themselves to the arts and see what is happening with the arts on campus.
“It’s becoming a part of the community,” he said. “And I hope that the major part of our community will come over and witness the powerful experience of theatre and dance combined.”