Wrapping Up The 2018 Marfa Intensive
Chatting With Charney
 A few words from Dr. Mark Charney 

Three years ago, the School of Theatre and Dance created the Marfa Intensive, an eleven-day immersive devised theatre program that teaches students the process of building a play from the ground up--a "hunch," as we call it--asking students to collaborate, write, design, act direct, and conceive. Unlike a traditional play, which serves an existing text, devising asks participants to work together to create the work, taking even more ownership over the process, and, finally, listening and reacting sensitively to one another. The first year we took "Marfa" as our hunch, and the second, "borders." And each summer, we emphasize process over product.
This year, the first that assigned credit for participants, we embraced the idea of "healing," not only because of our College's interest in arts and medicine, but also because, in these challenging political times, we wanted our students to embrace the concept of "bringing together," "recovery," and all that healing implies.

To compose our ensemble, we invited 15 TTU students in theatre, one professional actor, one student from Clemson in visual art, four students from the School of Art, two students from Bilkent University in Turkey, and one musician from the School of Music; possibly because of the interdisciplinary and international interchange, we had an experience that can only be described as magical. Under the innovative guidance of Drs. Rich Brown (theatre) and Heather Warren-Crow (art), we explored healing in all of its myriad incarnations. Many thanks go to the financial and creative guidance of Dean Noel Zahler and TTU-alum and benefactor Tim Crowley, for, in only eleven days, we originated and produced a show of which we are mighty proud: funny, poignant, honest, painful, and epiphanic.
I was in awe of the students in theatre, music, and the visual arts, and remain committed to the idea that devised theatre, while it will never replace traditional texts (nor should it), is one of the best methods to teach creativity and foster collaboration out there.
In this newsletter, you will read statements from our artists, our company manager, and our students, honest accounts of their perception of the art of devising and our shared affection for Marfa. Enjoy!
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Rich Brown, Artistic Director
In just eleven days the hard-working, courageous, and passionate Texas Tech Theatre students, along with two guests from Turkey, dove into Devised Theatre for their first time.  They engaged fully in experiential learning to go from having no script, to creating a full hour-long performance to share with the citizens of Marfa.  The students left Marfa empowered to create their own work, so they will no longer be beholden on a director to cast them, or artistic director to hire them as designers or playwrights.  They now have the skills and technique to bring their voices to the stage to serve future audiences.
Students learned how to deconstruct live performance and analyze the individual elements of the stage, which combine to create theatrical forms (what we see or hear on stage), which can then hold content (ideas from text or songs) to form Moments of performance.  In this way, students learned to reconstruct the elements of the stage to generate new theatrical forms, and write performance as they explored our hunch--the relationship between art and healing. 
It's thrilling to watch interpretative artists transform into creative artists.  Students learned to work outside of their specialized theatrical areas, so actors who had never written text were asked to become playwrights; playwrights were asked to jump up and move their bodies to generate forms; designers too created forms and moments; and at some point everyone did some directing. They have experienced a process of Devising to use as a model as they go forward and generate their own ways of working, of creating their plays of the future.   
The 11-day 2018 Marfa Intensive in 30 seconds.
Click image above to play the video.
From Our Playwriting Students  
Dillon Rouse: Second-Year MFA Playwriting Student
I recommend anyone who calls themselves theatre practitioners to participate in The Marfa Intensive. The workshop challenged scholars including myself to remove our identity hats as pedagogy, scenic, and playwriting students to collaborate in creating a story. The process required artists to take on roles they are not accustomed to, such as writing, directing, and acting. The idea of this workshop was to find a performance that pertained to a particular theme, "healing," assigned by devising expert, Rich Brown, and for the company to perform it for the people of Marfa, TX. The experience was difficult at first because I found it uncomfortable removing my identity as a playwright, but now I am a confident collaborator of devised theatre. Before going to Marfa I wanted to venture out into other realms of theatre and get a better knowledge of acting, improv, and directing. Discomfort was something I wanted to explore with this process.

Bryce Real: Incoming MFA Playwriting Student
I had a great time with this process. I met new friends, I experienced Marfa, and I was able to create theater that the people in Marfa enjoyed. This process of creating theater was wonderful. It showed me that instincts and "gut" feelings can be just or even more powerful as thinking things over in a week process. For a playwright, this is an interesting and helpful tool. For me, the most important thing I learned from this intensive is that theater is a safe place to find healing and comfort. Because of the healing potential of theater, I believe this process shows the world that theater is still a relevant and an important institution that is dearly needed today. 
From Our Designers   
Shannon Robert: Guest Artist - Design
What do you get when you combine TTU theatre and art students with two Turkish students and put them all together in a theatre in Marfa, Texas, teach them about the process of devising and creating new work, wind them up and let them go? You get the Marfa Intensive, an experiential process of creating theatre and art/design from the ground up.  The company begins with no script and end ten days later with an hour-long performance and exhibition that has been refined, rehearsed, designed and performed. These students complete the program with the ability to create their own work and elevate their ideas in a collaborative group setting. These skills provide confidence in creation and give them a voice and ownership of their ideas.
This year, the intensive explored the relationship between or the intersection of art and healing.  The students involved conducted interviews with citizens and visitors of Marfa. They developed material based on those interviews and conversations. As a contributing designer, I was excited to participate in a collaborative process that honors the voice of each artist as an interpreter of the material. It is particularly nice to watch students push themselves beyond their boundaries and perceived areas of interest.   
These students take ownership in their work in ways we don't see with published material--there is always a "what if" energy in the room as the material is refined and strengthened--to see this type of collaborative ownership and pride reminds me of the strength in community--this program builds that in a very special way.

Darin Moody: Incoming MFA Design Student
Arriving in Marfa, Texas I had no idea what to expect, and looking back I don't know that I can accurately describe the town. It is nothing short of magical. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to participate in this year's intensive. The process of breaking down theatre to its elements was something I had never considered, and through this process, I learned about my art and how to talk about it with more specificity. The creation of "forms" devoid of any content or context was a strange starting point for me. I am very rarely around during these phases of production; it was interesting for me to see how the other participants, from different disciplines, were either right at home or put completely off balance. Until day 8 or 9 we didn't know what our "show" would be. Going through the process was indeed "intense"; there is no way that we could know what we were getting into. The idea that our final product was not the end goal was another strange thought to get my head around. Looking back, there would be no way that we would have ended up where we did if we focused on the end product. Marfa and its citizens were so incredibly generous to the program that we felt right at home in a strange city.  
Caden Glass: Third-Year MFA Design Student

Research is one of my favorite aspects of theatre to do. There's nothing I love more than going down a rabbit hole on some topic. The devising process encourages research on an elemental level. In other words, we have to go talk to the people of Marfa to create material. It was good to be with people and talk;  that led to a lot of creativity and stories that influenced our show. We did not use all of the stories we heard, but hearing those stories changed our perspective and shaped our show.

From Our MFA Theatre Students
Ryan Fay: MFA Performance & Pedagogy Student  
The methodology taught by Rich Brown created the clearest process I have ever been a part of. The way that Rich breaks down devising during the Marfa Intensive into distinguishable steps and components makes it clearly understandable what you are working towards and what you are creating. I personally have been very interested in ways of creating theater that do not start with explicit text, but instead give the performer primacy and creative agency. The elements of theater that were broken down during the Intensive are an incredibly helpful tool. I love that the Marfa process started with physical work and the creation of physical forms. I am curious if this idea of forms and moment work can somehow be applied to adaptation or to a traditional play. If we make physical forms and then place the text of a play on top of it can that be effective way of creating theater?

Hillary Boyd: MFA Performance & Pedagogy Student
The Marfa Intensive was a life-changing experience for me. I had always wanted to visit Marfa, TX, being a longtime enthusiast of visual art. However, it had never occurred to me to connect visual art to my own work as a theater artist until my time at Marfa. As we toured the Judd, Irwin, Flavin, and Chamberlain sculptures, I began to see their connection to the "essentials"--elemental materials, shapes, forms. Similarly, in our sessions with Rich Brown, our guest expert in devised theater, he encouraged us to break down theater into its essential elements. This discussion ended with a large piece of brown butcher paper covered with words like lighting, set, costumes, tempo, duration, facial expressions, and distance. From there we combined these raw elements into individual forms, all before adding any kind of content or narrative. I must admit; this kind of ground-up approach felt a bit like we were all invited to become sculptors of the stage. Indeed, as we finally married content to our pre-fabricated forms, they became powerful "moments" that resonated far more deeply than if we had started with text alone
Dayday Robinson: MFA Performance & Pedagogy Student 
My mind, body and soul are screaming, "Take me back to Marfa; take me back to the land of peace and creativity." The Marfa intensive 2018 is the highlight of my summer. In twelve days, I made life long friendships and creative revelations. In twelve days, I shed my "selfish" artist tendencies and learned what true artist collaboration means. In twelve days, I re-found the joy that was slowly slipping away from my craft. In twelve days I remembered my voice as an artist. Twelve days, although short in duration, can make a lifetime worth of difference.

Briana Moody: Incoming MFA Arts Administration Student
Even if you don't consider yourself a "creator," the Marfa Intensive is beneficial to any artist in the fine arts field. You are exposed to other artists and their way of working, as well as different methodologies and opinions. The Marfa Intensive gave me an extensive amount of new knowledge about being a better artist. Between the visual art exploration, and the foundation-laying-steps of devising, I was exposed to the essential elements that make our craft so unique. Having the support and extreme generosity of Tim Crowley made us feel comfortable in a home away from home, and the locals of Marfa were always encouraging and supportive of all artists traveling through. This intensive is essential for graduate students or high-level undergrads to expose them to a more professional situation in the theater world. I'm so grateful to have been a part of this ever-improving adventure in Marfa. 
From Our BFA Students

Ray Patterson: BFA Student
I discovered more and more about my habits, likes, and strong points throughout the week of experimenting. I found in the elements of the stage that I gravitate towards those most associated with magic shows, particularly those of my favorite magic duo, Penn and Teller; staged accident, discovery of object, broken expectation, spectacle, silence, and the audience-performer relationship, specifically in using direct address. Knowing the specificities of the elements of the stage, I plan to expand my list of elements that I use most often, to grow from the ones I am most familiar to the ones I have never thought of before, such as the elements of gender, race, age, fire, wind, earth and water. The knowledge of the elements of the stage will be an essential help in my growing as an artist in any specific venue I choose to work within. As of now, my venues of choice are to pursue voice, Shakespeare acting, and perhaps incorporate more and more juggling as my career grows.
Jake Medina: BFA Student
The devising process with Rich Brown was some of the most meaningful work I have ever done. The biggest lesson that has come out of this intensive would have to be the art of working together with not only students of my own discipline but with students from other art forms who I personally know very little about. In the theatre world we are so often pigeon-holed by ourselves, our peers, and everyone in-between. We convince ourselves that "there's no way I could write something for this show--I'm an actor not a playwright!" Yet, plenty of the material we used for the final performance came from people who had never written before. Sometimes things that people had never tried before worked, and sometimes they failed. The whole point was the act of attempting whatever it was and letting the group decide whether to use it. It was a process about the act of making theatre, not the ego of any one participant. It was experimental and, sometimes, just plain weird. In the end, it was an unforgettable experience.
From Our PHD Students

Cole Wimpee: Incoming PHD Student
Texas Tech University should be imminently proud and strive to commit the most vigorous investment that can be justified to the continuation of the program. I will say, with some boldness, however little doubt: if the support and recognition of how excitingly unique (no other Higher Education State University in the United States does anything quite like this), and incredibly valuable, which now looking ahead into its 4th year, this 'initiative' is for the student artist training in our academic culture, the organic improvement on its model has the potential to be world-famous and widely-known / acclaimed in years-to-come. I am thankful that Texas Tech University said the initial, 'Yes' in 2016 and continues to support such a bold, exotic, groundbreaking, hair-brained, and positively advancing project for the arts in its institution.
Kelly Grandjean: Third-Year PHD Student
The course title does not lie; the Marfa Intensive is indeed intense. Guided by Dr. Rich Brown using the Moment Work methodology as taught to him by Moises Kaufman, the Marfa Intensive is a nearly two-week laboratory for devised theatre. I have always felt that movement based theatre is not for the faint of heart. It is grueling, testing your emotional and physical stamina, your relationship to yourself and to others, while requiring both an attachment to and detachment from the work. No small charge, especially for a group such as ours made up of people of greatly varied ages, disciplines, and experience levels. While intense, this sort of theatre work melds an ensemble into a cohesive unit that speaks the same language. That is why a show can go up in such a limited amount of time: we speak a kind of theatre shorthand and can make hard decisions efficiently.  

Some of my best work comes when there is no time to second-guess myself. Rich Brown walked the fine line between involvement and detachment with dexterity. He knew when to get involved, but he also knew when to let us solve our own creative problems. I loved working with Rich and would feel greatly privileged to get to work with him again. He is an excellent facilitator, a great creative problem solver, and a man of incredible patience.
From Our Music Student

Justin Glosson: PHD-Music Student
Intensives are always intense. That's the point. When I came to the Marfa Intensive as an outsider - a musician in a field of theatre bodies - I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew I was coming to the table to engage with the process of bringing the School of Music into the shared experience. Ultimately, the intensive wasn't just about theatre: it was about Interdisciplinary Devising.
The process of devising as a creative avenue in music allows composition, improvisation, and research. During this journey, it has been a struggle to identify which discipline of music would not benefit from this process. Music Educators would find the elemental focus and exactness of pedagogical interaction to increase the rigor in future classrooms. Musicologists and Ethnomusicologists would find value in the research and connection between active performance, historical performance, and musical communities surrounding the location and process - i.e. applying theoretical knowledge from previous research into the performance field (this extends to Music Theorists as well as Performance focused music disciplines).  
In the devising process, "taking off your hat of specialization" is a very real and vulnerable practice that stands everyone on an equal playing field. It is not just a practice, but a philosophy that requires maturity and patience. We all have a unique skillset, and individuality is important - but not when it puts a barrier between two collaborators. This is the difference between collaboration and cooperation. 
There is something to be said to the strength and support created by working across disciplines - that is, not being in separate intensives. The experience is fundamentally based upon being able to engage in an interdisciplinary process that engages all the arts at once - not because our specialization isn't important, but because it is important. When we allow ourselves to become neophytes in another discipline, we return to the table of our own discipline with a toolset that is empowered, supported, and sharpened for all the challenges of human expression.
Devised Visual Art

Heather Warren-Crow: Co-Artistic Director 
The Marfa Intensive is an unprecedented opportunity for TTU artists to work collectively using body-based and improvisational approaches from theatre, performance art, and post-studio practices. Working almost as fast and on-the-fly as the theatre students, the art students transformed dollar store materials into sculptures that theatre students interacted with through gesture and choreography. What I saw in our best moments was a true inter/action between body and material, theatre and visual art (not to mention graduate student and undergrad!). What I loved was the unpredictability and ephemerality of everything we did together. Marfa has a kind of magic to it, and art students channeled this magic into a final exhibition that was just as funny, sad, messy, awkward, gestural, and surprisingly weird as the devised theatre piece produced by the company. We're hoping to mount our exhibition again, somewhere in Lubbock, to conjure up just a little of that unforgettable experience and show the TTU campus community what 5 artists,11 days, and 300 pounds of duct tape and cheap party supplies can do. 

Cody Arnall: Guest Artist - Sculpture
It was my pleasure to participate in The Marfa Intensive. Living up to my expectation, the process proved to be an invaluable educational opportunity for the student participants from the Schools of Theatre and Dance, Art and Music.
So many wonderful educational opportunities for students were packed into just 11 days, including a visit to the Chinati Foundation, Donald Judd's former residence, Ballroom Marfa gallery, a visit from theatre director Richard Maxwell and more. I enjoyed watching these experiences work themselves into the devised theatre process and into the collaborative work the art students made. Everything seemed to fit perfectly into theme or "hunch" of healing, something we need some much of socially and politically. 
I am very proud of the work that co-Artistic Director, Dr. Heather Warren-Crow and I did to help create an environment for the art students that was positive, supportive and productive.  We constantly kept in mind the importance of interdisciplinary ways of working and enforced the significance of learning from and working with the theatre students. One of my favorite collaborative moments between the theatre students and art students was a particular exercise where the art students provided wounded sculptures to be interacted with by the theatre students.  What happened was one of the more visually interesting things I have ever seen. Each discipline became completely immersed in each other's practice, a purely rare and unique moment.  

From Our Art Students
Devin Ratheal: MFA-Painting Student
Speaking for the visual artists, being invited to participate in the devising method at the earliest stages informed the way we collaborated with each other and it provided content for our work.  More importantly, intense participation at the early stage allowed us to have a profound appreciation for the hard work and creativity of the theater artists which resulted in the final performance.  It was of course wonderful also to see glimpses in the performance of early forms we had contributed.  From the visual art side, I think that Heather's exploration of ways in which the visual artists could engage with the theater artists helped us all think more deeply about what it means to create and interact with visual art.

Raha Shojaei: PHD-Art Student  
The program was challenging for me as a visual artist and questioned my idea of a controlled process of art-making in both individual and group forms. In the first days of the program, we were encouraged to discuss the assigned articles over minimalist art, postdramatic theatre, hyperobjects, devised theatre and art healing as the theme of this intensive. The Marfa Intensive was an incredible opportunity that connected every moment of practicing art to a new form of creative work. The experience challenged our ego and individuality in creating art in both areas of visual art and theater to emphasize the process and the result.

Samantha Taylor: BFA Student from Clemson Univ.
The intensive is really special due to where it lays in the intersection of the visual and performing arts. My background is in theatre and am currently pursuing of a visual arts degree. I loved witnessing and participating in the cross education of students in both fields. I learned so much from Heather Warren-Crow and Cody Arnall who are both absolutely brilliant. I also gained insight from observing Rich Brown's devising process as opposed to participating in it. I have been involved in devising theatre before and I learned a lot from my experiences, but I gained a new perspective from watching from the sidelines (or more appropriately, the studio). I cannot wait to take this experience back to Clemson and build on what I learned, and I hope to soon visit Texas Tech University in pursuit of a graduate degree.
The Marfa Intensive Production Photos

The Marfa Intensive Company 2018

The Marfa Intensive 2018