Alec Williams, an art administration graduate student and a fellow for the Charles Adam studio project, transferred from Odessa College to Texas Tech in his undergraduate years. Now, he is returning to Odessa College and bringing his love for theater with him.
The idea for the West Texas Education Project came into existence in January of 2017, Williams said. Plans began moving forward near the end of March.
Williams and several graduate students from the Tech music and dance department will take up residence in Odessa in May. Starting on May 14th, a series of workshops in various aspects of technical theater will take place.
The workshops will culminate at 5 p.m. on May 19th, when the final production of The Last Five Years will be shown at the Globe Theater.
“We’re living in a society where there’s a lot of unrequited love going around, a lot of complexity in relationships,” Williams said. “I think the The Last Five Years really addresses that, in that things aren’t always black and white. There are problems on both sides of the relationship.”
The workshops will focus on the technical aspects of theater and providing students the tools to be successful in various aspects of the performing arts world. The students will receive training can lead to careers down the line in fields ranging from costuming to lighting and set construction.
Williams is returning to Odessa to affect change in his community and hopefully inspire students. Eric Baker, the chair of visual and performing arts at Odessa College and a former professor of Williams, said he is excited to be working with Williams, and they have been on a mission to put on the West Texas Education Project in May.
“The whole idea of education is to equip students and empower them to actually do these things,” Baker said. “And to have him so quickly come back and say ‘Hey I want to give back to my community,’ is the biggest win in my book.”
Williams is working with local Lubbock nonprofit organization, Moonlight Musicals, as well. Several professionals from Moonlight Musicals will be teaching master classes in the West Texas Education Project, Gerald Dolter, a professor in the School of Music and executive director of Moonlight Musicals, said.
Williams became a student of Dolter’s when he came to Tech. He entered an independent study with Dolter because of his interest in arts administration during his senior year. In his time at Tech, Williams was involved in productions both at Tech and with Moonlight Musicals, which fostered a relationship between Dolter and Williams.
“There’s a level of honesty and trust that we share and have shared throughout the years, and I think, (with) what I’m seeing right now, he’s going to make a dynamite arts administrator,” Dolter said.
Williams had a passion for music that has developed into a love for the fine arts. Using the West Texas Education Project, Williams said he wants to take the experiences he’s had in Lubbock and share his knowledge with students in Odessa, and hopefully inspire them.
“Maybe they can find their own niche to better explore through these workshops with basic understanding and that’s something I wanted to provide them because I did not have it myself to discover,” Williams said.
Over a year’s worth of planning has gone into getting the West Texas Education Project off the ground. The rights to the show alone cost more than $1000, and ticket sales alone would not cover production costs while also keeping ticket prices reasonable, Dolter said.
Williams applied for funding through Odessa College. Dolter said the distance Williams was from Odessa College when he applied for funding worked against him. It speaks to William’s passion and strength of character that he got the funding he applied for.
“They gave him 50 percent of what he asked for. 50 percent. For someone who’s brand new, that’s astounding,” Dolter said. “But he was really good at establishing the trust, and the project is worthy.”
Williams success at Odessa College and the connections he established there helped him turn the West Texas Education Project into a reality, Baker said. Williams was the recipient of prestigious scholarship while attending Odessa College, which solidified his status as a top student.
Williams was a dedicated student, Baker said, with a professional attitude. He is proud of what Williams has accomplished so far.
“He’s a big dreamer,” Baker said. “He sees big things many students his age don’t always see, so he’s got a lot of potential there and he’s a very hard worker. It used to kind of make me smile when Alec would win awards here in the college, or be highlighted as one of our top performers. I would hear students say ‘Oh that’s Alec. He’s just super talented,’ and he is. But maybe what that student didn’t realize is that Alec was beating most of the faculty into the practice rooms every morning. He’d be the first one here, through the building, and the last one out. In addition to being highly talented, he is a very hard worker.”
Williams is filling a niche in Odessa, Dolter said. There are many students in the West Texas Area who do not have access to all the knowledge for various aspects of fine arts.
After the West Texas Education Project, Williams is looking to start his own nonprofit, called the Traveling Arts Initiative, which will continue in the goal of education by providing workshops and performances in visual arts, theater and music for West Texas communities, Williams said.
This has also been a learning experience for Williams. He is gaining experience in critical thinking and problem solving in his desired field, something most first year masters students would not have the opportunity to do.
“Sometimes I don’t know the answer to things,” he said. “Sometimes I have an obstacle, and I don’t necessarily know how to navigate it in an appropriate way without sacrificing something else, such as maybe recreation or sleep.”
When the production is done, there will likely be extra money, profit, from the production. With the extra money, Dolter said he and Williams had discussed what to do with any profit. Dolter suggested Williams use it to continue his education at Tech, but Williams had another idea.
“And he said, ‘No. I don’t need it. I’ve got my money from over there (Texas Tech). What I would want to happen is that it would continue on for Odessa college,’” Dolter said.
From the classroom, to the stage, to the director’s chair, Williams has been dedicated to honing his craft, and improving in all aspects, Baker said. He has talent and a strong work ethic that will serve him well.
“He’s hungry to make himself better and to improve,” Baker said. “It’s not just your talent, it’s how hard you want to work, and thankfully Alec has both.”