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The University Star




The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

The Student News Site of Texas State University

The University Star

TXST Theatre to host 21st annual Black and Latino Playwright Celebration

TXST+Theatre+to+host+21st+annual+Black+and+Latino+Playwright+Celebration
Eva Bowler

The Texas State Theatre Department will be hosting its 21st annual Black and Latino Playwright Celebration from Aug. 28 – Sept. 3 at the Theatre Center and Performing Arts Center. 

The annual celebration will entail four days of rehearsals that are open to the public to see guest directors, professional actors, dramaturgs and Texas State theatre students at work. The last two days of the event will show readings of the new plays “Escobar’s Hippo” by Franky Gonzalez and “Hurt People” by LaDarrion Williams. 

“I try to pick plays that the students can relate to, with themes that students can relate to and to challenge them, to go into areas that aren’t so comfortable for them at times, because that’s what’s going to be asked to them out in the professional world,” Eugene Lee, the artistic director, said.

Lee, the founder of the 21st annual Black and Latino Playwright Celebration, is a Texas State alumnus and professor for the Department of Theatre and Dance. 

It started when Lee was asked to come back to Texas State to direct one of his plays for Black History Month. During Lee’s academic career at Texas State in 1974, there were only three Black performers. When asked to return, Lee continued to grow frustrated after finding only four Black performers in the theatre department.

Because of the lack of Black performers in the department, Lee had to venture out to find more performers in the San Marcos and Austin area. This idea to incorporate both Texas State and local performers has stuck for decades. 

“I wanted to be able to nurture some voices that don’t get these kinds of opportunities in the mainstream,” Lee said. 

Every year, Lee likes to provide a distinguished achievement award. This award goes to people of color that have made a positive impact in the theatre world. This year, the award will go to Carlos Morton, a professor emeritus for the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Morton has more than 100 theatrical productions both nationally and internationally. 

Another member of the artistic team for the celebration is Sarah Maines, the chair for the Department of Theatre & Dance. Maines works mainly as a producer, making sure to cover the publicity for the celebration and assisting with utilizing the funding provided by the Center for Diversity and Gender Studies and Humanities Texas. 

Maines has participated in the annual Black and Latino Playwright Celebration for three years. Through her contributions, Maines believes that this production is not only important for performers of color, but for white performers and audience members to be able to see and learn. 

“What I haven’t actually said out loud is the critical exposure to our white students of the culture that they can learn from the experience of attending these shows,” Maines said. “[There’s] so many great things for people of all walks of life to learn from this experience.”

One of the students that had a positive impact on the celebration last year was Jajuan Wade, a theatre certification senior. Last year, Wade got the part to play a key role in the play “A Cup of Life” by Kwik Jones. The story consisted of two sisters allowing children with a troubled past to work in a plant shop. Wade, playing the officer, got to witness a central element of the importance of growing relationships in order to form new beginnings. 

From auditioning to be a part of the production to performing the reading, the entire experience for Wade was life changing.

“I think [the play] was beautifully written and beautifully told,” Wade said. “It lets people have those hard conversations and see those hard situations that many others don’t see.”

Lee believes that a lot of audience members and performers are able to make the most out of the celebration. He recounts his favorite memories of being able to observe the evolution of performers of color and seeing it come to life more and more each year.

“When I see student’s lives changed because they had the opportunity to participate in this, when I see people’s minds change because they see themselves celebrated in these stories, those are special moments to me,” Lee said. 

The final readings of the playwrights will be at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 2 and noon on Sunday, Sept. 3 at the Performing Arts Center Recital Hall. Tickets for public admission are $10 and $7 for Texas State students, faculty and staff.

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