This past weekend, TTU was treated to an exclusive workshop with Heather Helinsky, a nationally renowned dramaturg with tremendous insight and a wealth of experience. The workshop incorporated discussions on two new plays by Caridad Svich and Connie Congdon, as well as a 24-hour(ish) writing challenge based on an exercise. The workshop didn’t gather as many participants as I might’ve liked (though it is that point in the semester and we are in dress for a major show), but those who participated did so wholeheartedly and produced some wonderful work when it was all said and done.
The workshop had a lot to do with dramaturgy of location, and much of our discussion over Svich and Congdon’s plays centered on how the settings of each piece influenced its construction, its themes, its relation to the audience, etc. We used this as a jumping off point to consider Lubbock and the West Texas area, images of which helped shape our writing exercise and later the works we completed and had read on Sunday. It was really fascinating to see so many different takes on Lubbock, especially with regards to what was the same and what was different. One thing that definitely featured across the board was the weather, partly because it was mandated in the writing exercise, but also because, let’s face it, the weather is a powerful and mysterious force in Lubbock, and just has to feature as a character in and of itself. I was so pleased and impressed with the work that we produced, and I have to say, Lubbock might be quite the breeding ground for some great drama.
At the end of the day, what really made it all work was the great Heather Helinsky. Broken foot and all, she was a total dynamo, taking us through two complicated plays, encouraging us in our writing, and toughing it out through a number of treks, including through the Texas Tech Museum. I have to also give a special thanks to our RROAPS and workshop dramaturg, Laurel Petty, who did a lot of wonderful research and preparation for us. As for Heather: it was such a pleasure to host her through the weekend, and I can say, personally, that she gave me some wonderful advice as a young writer and dramaturg. As for her benefits: if nothing else, she seems to have had a great first trip to Texas, and she definitely treasured her first Texas-shaped waffle encounter, a must for any visit to the Lone Star State.