Exciting news from the Drama Department at Austin Community College!
Students in rehearsal for upcoming Makers and Methods Event:
Staged Readings of Student Plays

photo credit: Greg Romero
Letter from the Chair
Greetings all!

We’re almost there. I don’t mean that we are almost done with spring, (which we are) but we are approaching the crest of a new wave in theatrical splendor. While summer often marks a shift in tempo for the department, it looks like we will be busy with activities right on through. They say it will be hot this summer in Austin; theaters are dark and cool so join us…

We will close the semester this Spring with our Actors Showcase, Tuesday, May 8 th at 7:30 PM at Austin Playhouse. This spring we will add work from Professor David Yeakle’s Stage Movement class, and display design and construction work from Professor Stephanie Dunbar’s Stagecraft course. Great work from students in the Acting I, II, and Voice. Join us for refreshments and theater. 

We‘ll also present readings by student playwrights at this month’s Makers and Methods on Wednesday, April 25th, 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM in the Acting Studio Highland Campus. I am always excited to see how the next gen of theater artists sees the world and how it will give voice to that vision. Along the same lines, we will present a student production of  Circle Mirror Transformation  in June. Our student led productions offer the opportunity for students to direct, perform, design, and produce work without too much faculty interference. Well, not too much. Experimentation and hands on experience is essential to our craft so we all feel strongly about devising a space where students can explore theater making on their own terms. It’s a great way to complement classroom and main stage production training. It’s fun too.

We are also looking at offering some workshops around student production work over the summer in late June and July. One of the responses in our Program Review this year was a need for training in producing and directing small shows. Since we currently do not offer directing or arts administration courses (currently!) we are looking at the workshop format as a place to provide this training. Stay tuned for more details. 

As always we’ll offer intro to theater sections throughout the summer. Additionally, do consider looking into the Stagecraft II section at HLC: Patternmaking for Knits and Cosplay. It's a 9-wk course, meeting T/Th from 1:00-5:30PM in the costume shop this summer. While it is a Stagecraft II, you don’t have to have taken Stagecraft I to enroll. And for majors, it can count as your technical theater course. So get ready for the next Ren Fair or Convention. Should be super cool.

Last, I am sad to share that a good friend, colleague, and longtime contributor to Austin's theater world, Dr. Billy F. Harden passed away this week. Dr. Harden has been a fixture in Austin theater for decades. He was an educator, an actor, a singer and musician, a producer, a director, an activist, and a visionary. For those of you who knew him, he was always the brightest light in any room. Brilliant, generous, funny, and incredibly gifted. A remarkable man. At ACC, we were fortunate to have him on board as a guest artist in our 2008 production of  Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil.  For the past couple of years, he was a member of our department's advisory committee. I also had the honor to work with him at Spectrum Theater Company. The Harden family and Spectrum Theater Company have partnered with Austin Creative Alliance to create  The Dr. Billy F. Harden Legacy Fund    to continue his dedication to education and the performing arts in Central Texas.

~ Marcus McQuirter
Letter from the Director of the Staged Readings of Student Plays

Creating a play is a process. It can be fun, or it can be difficult. Last year, when I worked on the Student Staged Readings, there were some challenges. Fortunately, the end result was (in my opinion) satisfying, and I learned a great deal from it. Luckily, we’ve had a lot of good fortune this year. We’ve been lucky enough to have a professional playwright, Greg Romero, supervise this process, and it has been such a pleasure. His attitude towards the students' learning and our cooperation with the playwrights has been nothing but wonderful. There are some familiar faces and a few new ones, and both the playwrights and I feel confident we will be able to bring all of our hard work together successfully.

We have two shows:
Christopher Cabral’s “Boxed”
Starring: Eddy Flores, Remy Joslin, Carolina Naranjo, and Christopher Cabral

Joe Kelley “Parents” .
Starring: Remy Joslin, Crystal Reese, and Chandler Erickson

I hope to see you all there!

Sincerely yours,
           RYAN A WILLIAMS


Greg Romero

Interview by Jamie Rogers
Where are you from? What schools have you attended?

I was born in Houma, Louisiana, and grew up in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana. I went to college at the Louisiana Scholars College (BA in Liberal Arts) and The University of Texas at Austin (MFA in Playwriting).

How did you become involved in theatre?
I was drawn to theater from an early age, which I think is natural. I think most children enjoy creative things, play-acting, transforming, using their imagination, participating in stories. I have just stuck with it longer than most people, but I wish that weren’t true. I wish everyone created theater their whole lives.
For me specifically, I took a “Drama” class in 8 th grade, which led to acting in my first play. I haven’t really stopped doing theater since, except to take breaks here and there to try other things. But I always come back to making theater because I love it so much.
How did you get interested in playwriting?
I tried out a lot of other things in theater first. My main focus for a long time was as a performer, then a dramaturg, then a director, producer. I started writing while I was focused on acting, writing audition monologues for myself (which I was discouraged from doing, but I did it anyway and it was one of the most important moments of educational disobedience in my life). Over time, I just discovered that writing was what I loved most, how I felt most alive, how I felt most like myself, how I feel I best engaged with the people and the world around me.

What other schools have you taught and what classes?
I have taught at Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s University, University of the Arts, University of Texas at Austin, and the National Theater Institute.
I have taught classes in Playwriting, Dramatic/Script Analysis, Theater History, American Theatre, Directing, Introduction to Theatre, and a few others.
How long have you held a Faculty position in the ACC Drama Department and what do you currently teach?
This is my first semester at ACC, and I teach “Introduction to Theater”, mostly to Early College High School students. I am super grateful to be learning so much from them.
Where have your plays been presented? Have any been published? How difficult is it for a playwright to have your plays developed and produced?
My plays have been presented in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Washington DC, Baltimore, Phoenix, New Orleans, Anchorage, and outside the United States in Victoria, British Columbia; Kingston, Jamaica; and London, England.
I may be the only playwright in the world who has presented a play in the bathrooms of The Actors Theatre of Louisville.
I have three plays that are published: Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings and Delaware Mudtub and the Mighty Wampum by YouthPLAYS; and Two Bubbles by Playscripts.
How difficult it’s been to make all of this happen is difficult to answer in that each situation is different. Sometimes it’s been very easy—someone happened to hear about my work somehow and got interested. Other times it has taken literally five to six years of effort to bring a play into production. I feel very lucky, however, in that even these situations that require a lot of work, it’s almost always still fun. So “difficult” doesn’t exactly mean “unenjoyable” here.
I also self-produce a lot of my work, which is difficult for other reasons.
In all cases, I have found that I must always be active in sharing my work. And then, the work doesn’t stop there. As someone who cares very deeply in how their work is presented, I’m almost always involved in the production process somehow, even for productions that happen a great distance from me.

Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings
at Little Fish Theatre in Philadelphia

photo credit: Charlotte Leigh

Are staged readings of your work helpful? Have you found that some play development methods/practices work better than others?
Almost all staged readings are helpful in that, even from the disasters, there are things to learn. However, some of things learned come at a net loss when the play, or the writer’s confidence or joy, is damaged by a process insensitive to that play’s needs.
I don’t believe there is a singular, effective play development structure, and it’s because each play and playwright is unique, as are all the circumstances. For example—who are the people in the room? How much time do you have? Where is the play in its own journey? Where is the playwright in their own awareness and level of ability? Who is the audience? What is going on in the world around or in collision with the play?
All these questions, and more, must be considered. So, for me, a play developmental process that is: focused on listening, open to exploration, creative and surprising, appropriately demanding, all while taking care of the brave, thoughtful, passionate people working on it, are the processes that have been most useful to me.
Are you currently working on writing a script now?
The biggest play I am working on now is called Door to Balloon . This is a description:
“A stand-up comedian might be dying of heart failure right in front of you. Is that a joke? Five female haz-mat workers measure radiation and expand the universe—losing a face, losing a stone, losing time— in the Nevada Proving Grounds of the Mojave Desert. And who keeps lowering the dumbwaiter to the teenagers locked in the basement? Knock knock. Annie hands you a plate full of cowboy cookies and you can’t tell, later, if you’ve been poisoned. Where are all the songs coming from, who will win the staring contest, will the comedian last the night, what do we do with that giant knife, and what are the Siamang gibbons howling about?”
What kind of themes/issues do you find that are you drawn to in your playwriting?
Animals. Impossibility. People trying (and failing at) incredibly brave things. Transformation. Weirdness. Surprising relationships. Care.

What advice would you give a current ACC student who wanted to start a career as a working playwright?
Advice is tricky, so I would be careful with anyone who asked. If someone has discovered their passion for writing plays, I would encourage them to continue it, listen closely to what they’re interested in, and to write the boldest, bravest version of whatever they are imagining, hearing, or feeling. Stretch every day. Listen for what excites you most and follow that with curiosity and fearlessness and an open heart. Befriend people and things and experiences that provoke and motivate you. Get in touch the wild things and fall in love with them. Know that you will experience failures and that these failures are transformational and necessary. Howl at the moon. Lose your mind. Make thoughtful, specific choices. Take care of yourself and the things around you. Take time to do nothing. Fail more profoundly. Hug things. And then keep going.

What are your future plans?
I’m just trying to keep on going.


Nicholas Davila

Interview by Jamie Rogers
Where are you from? Were you involved in theatre in when you were in high school?

I'm from Cedar Park, Texas and have basically lived here my whole life.

I first got involved in theatre in middle school and I guess it stuck because here I am now. I guess technically I did musicals when I was in elementary school, but those years are really just a blur. 

What were the reasons you decided to enroll at Austin Community College?

I'm here at ACC because it's cheap, close to home, and allows me to have a lot of freedom in my life for things like work, class, and theatre. It was really just the simplest option that I think a lot of people tend to overlook. 

Any favorite classes in the Drama Department and why? Important things you have learned so far?

Right now I've only been in the Intro to Theatre class, but I've enjoyed it a lot because I've been able to be myself in that environment while getting all my work done. 

You just were cast in the role of Lorin in our spring production of Gloria . Can you tell us a little bit about your role and what that rehearsal/performance process was like?

The character I played in  Gloria , Lorin, was described in the script as a " sad sad sad sad guy".  It was honestly such a fun role to play because Lorin was the type to bottle up all his frustrations until he finally erupted in a beautiful two page monologue in which I swore 20 times. I was able to find instances in my life where I was ever at my breaking point and channel them to feed my frustration on stage, and it was almost therapeutic. Rehearsals were usually from around 7:00 - 10:00 at the Highland Campus, with my spending nearly every day up there. It was a labor of love, but it never really felt like work because I was doing what I enjoyed. Our director, Marcus, allowed us a lot of freedom with our acting and mostly let us do what we wanted, but guided us with some good questions about our character and their motives. 

Any favorite ACC Drama Production?

Technically  Gloria  has been my only ACC production, so I guess it's my favorite by default, but it really was a lot of fun to be a part of. 

Nicholas Davila as Lorin in Gloria

photo credit: Jaden Davis
Do you attend school and have outside employment? If so, how do you find a balance between work and drama department involvement?

I am working at a pool over this school year. I scheduled my classes with work and drama in mind so that I would be able to do it all. I start my mornings with work, then head over to my classes, and after that if I'm involved in show I have a little bit of downtime before my rehearsals. It's a busy schedule but I get everything in so it works for me.

Have you attended auditions in Austin outside of the ACC Drama Department?

Just recently I got cast as a swing in Georgetown Palace Theatre's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, so I've got that keeping busy carrying into the summer. It was a big deal for me to be cast as a part of the show because it was my first musical audition outside of high school, and competition was fierce. 

Any overall advice to give to current Drama Majors on ways to get them involved in the Department?

If you want to become more involved in the department, just talk to people and audition honestly. Everybody I've worked with has been so friendly and helpful and a blast to work with. Saying hi will only be good for you. 

What does the future hold?

The future for me is certainly uncertain, but I guarantee you'll still be able to find me prancing around on a stage in tights wherever it takes me.

PERRY CRAFTON will be judging the UIL One-Act Play State Contest for conference AAAAA on Tuesday, April 24th.

GREG ROMERO is currently working as a dramaturg for Teatro Vivo's Austin Latino
New Play Festival, April 19 - 21, specifically on the play,  American (tele)Vision  by
Victor I. Cazares.

His all-ages play,  Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings , will be produced by Dripping Springs High School, April 30 - May 1, in Dripping Springs, Texas.

His short play,  Bulldozers , will be presented as a staged reading as part of the William Inge Theater Festival, May 9 - 12, in Independence, Kansas.

His short play,  Foxing , will be produced at The Bunker Theater in London, England, on May 14th and 21st as part of the program, Pint-Sized Plays.

ACC Drama Dept Production Tech,  TOMAS SALAS , while keeping his job at ACC, has returned to school at the University of Texas Austin this spring to complete his BA in Theatre and Dance, after withdrawing from that program 38 years ago. He will complete his studies by the fall of 2019. He is currently the oldest student in the program, he knows its never too late to go back to school.
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