The Front Row: The Hunt for Theatrical Spaces

Sep 11, 2018

Dr. Mark Charney, Director of Texas Tech's School of Theatre and Dance, answers a pressing question: how do you hold a theatre season with no theatre? Find out how they're turning this problem into an opportunity on this episode of The Front Row.

Give us some background and tell us what you’re going to do this year.

About a year, year and a half ago—two years ago?—we were fortunate enough to raise enough money for phase one of a new building and the new building is going up right next door. To that end, we found out we were going to lose our lab space, our small room theatre space, it only seats about 25…and that our theater itself was going to be used more as a shop and couldn’t have a certain number of guests in it because of the building that’s going on next door.

Before I came here, there was a fire at some point and what the theatre did was look for theater-like spaces. So we thought about going to Lubbock community theatre, we thought about going to LHUCA and just planning our season accordingly, but those of us who work in the profession do understand that our students aren’t going be fortunate enough when they get out of school to work in theaters with big budgets and lights and sound equipment…

So I remember going home and telling my wife, why don’t we just forego the idea of the theatre altogether. We often say that theatre exists without intentional spaces. Theatre can happen anywhere. So let’s put our money where our mouth is and let us do an entire season of either site specific or found space theatre. The difference is, site specific is finding exactly the site that the play calls for, but just in real life, found spaces are places that facilitate the play, but may not be the exact space for it.

She said, “well it’s going to be hard…and I we’re going to have our theater space back in the spring, but if you’re going to commit to something, commit to it.” So I said, “What about a year of working in the community,” and the faculty—as they always are adventuresome, ready to go—said let’s do it.

So we’re doing an entire season, not in conventional spaces. Some of it’s going to require patrons to go to spaces where they never thought they’d find theatre—like the parking lot of a Nissan dealership. Other spaces are theatrical in nature, like the equestrian center, which does have seats, but we’re not using them. Still the others are places that people go, like the Ranching Heritage Center or the LHUCA Museum, but not where you’d expect theatre…

One thing I think is that we’re proving that theatre can exist anywhere. We’re also proving to our students how flexible they have to be in terms of moving into spaces. And finally, we’re partnering with community organizations that we didn’t plan on partnering with, but we’re really committed to Lubbock as a our campus and this just seems to further that idea.

How did that effect your choice of productions and pieces?

Well, it had to right? Because we had to look at what Lubbock has to offer, and then we had to think of plays that could exist within the realm of that place…We put all the places that we could think of and then we started cross listing them with plays.

Listen to the full interview at the top of the article.