March 15, 2023 718 PM
MARFA — Marfa Live Arts’ popular annual Playwriting Program celebrated its 12th year with the return of award-winning Austin-based playwright Raul Garza teaching at Marfa High School this past week.
Garza’s first foray into Marfa Live Art’s Playwriting Program came in 2016, where he helped Marfa High School students find their inner voices to create a short one-act play with four winning students seeing their work brought to life onstage. “I’m just honored, but it’s also humbling to see the level of creativity and vision that kids in this community have,” Garza said. “They’re exposed not only to rural life, but this burgeoning kind of hipster culture that surrounds them. Understanding their ability to translate that into art was really a moving experience for me.”
Garza, who was introduced to Marfa through his brother, musician David Garza, reminisced on his last visit with the students, which led to the creation of Huck Roch’s play based on his experiences working on the Boyz II Men taco truck. “There were some beautiful pieces by students about some of the mystical sides of Marfa. One reinterpreted and gave a backstory to what the Marfa Lights are,” he said. “Those really stand out and I remember that the kids had a real skillset and were very prepared. Their teachers are doing a good job in giving them the tools and foundation they need with a bit of a free rein.” He added, the students were “able to delve into some of their sources of pride, culture and identity.” Identifying with the students, Garza said, was a simple undertaking, as –– though he’s lived in major Texas metropolitan areas –– he grew up spending a lot of time along the U.S.-Mexico border, where his grandparents lived while he was growing up. “I really identify with them by their cultural upbringing and growing up in a Spanish-speaking household,” he said. “I feel it and I understand what it’s like to have one foot in one world and one in the other. I celebrate that and I think it’s something that these kids will appreciate more when they get older. I understand the nuances of language and the way that sometimes they’re more comfortable writing in Spanish, and that’s the way I write too.”
The Marfa Live Arts Playwriting Program, Garza believes, has been a great asset to not only the students, but the Marfa community in general. “I encourage the community to continue supporting this effort. I’m hoping the community understands what a gift it is to have such an innovative and soulful organization right here,” he said. For two-time playwright winner John Aguero, the program was a major part of his development as a student, taking the skills he learned with him to college, though he was initially intimidated by seeing his work played out onstage. “Having my work produced was honestly conflicting, but in a good way,” he said of his experience. “People could see the real me because I had made my plays with connections to my real life. But I think throughout my school career, moving into college, Marfa Live Arts has helped immensely in how I am able to communicate more effectively and work on film projects I would never have been able to do if I hadn’t produced and acted for MLA. I loved getting to work with real playwrights and the program was a highlight for my time at MHS. If I could do it again, I would 100 times over.”
One reason the program has thrived for over a decade has been its partnership with Marfa High School and the participation of MHS English teacher and Athletic Director Linda Ojeda.
“Marfa Live Arts has done so much for the students. They’ve helped with outreach and with their Crown Scholarships and things of that nature,” Ojeda explained. “These kids are pretty ambitious and a lot of them are going on to higher education and we’re hoping that some of them will continue doing this type of dramatic writing in college. We’re thankful for this opportunity.” The program, Ojeda added, has been a success due to the playwrights in residence. “One of the most important things is that the kids can relate to the individual doing the workshop,” she said. “Starting from the first year, Marfa Live Arts has always brought it with the playwrights selected. They’ve always been easily relatable to our kids and they let the students have an open mind about what they’re going to be writing about and pick the topics they want. They really do bring out the best in the kids, and I’m excited to have [Garza] back.”
The playwright workshop has also helped the students as the school has brought back drama with UIL one-act plays after going without such a program for some time.
“We weren’t competing in UIL for a while and now we have a drama class, so at first it was kind of hard for the kids to picture what was happening in regard to dialogue and stage direction,” she explained. “But now, I think the kids have a better vision of what’s happening in a live performance. We’ve noticed in the last three years now that some of our main actors for the one-act play have been in the Marfa Live Arts program and they not only perform better but have more of an understanding of what playwriting is about.” The one-act play “After Hours” students, she added, have advanced to the UIL district competition.
Marfa Live Arts will present the 12th Annual Marfa High School One-Act Plays showcasing four award-winning plays from the playwriting workshop along with the Marfa High School’s one-act play, “After Hours,” at the Crowley Theater on Wednesday, April 19, at 7 p.m. (doors at 6:30 p.m.).
This is a free event sponsored by Marfa Education Foundation and Texas Commission on the Arts. The community is invited to attend. If you are interested in acting or production work, please email: [email protected] For more information on Marfa Live Arts past, present, and future programs, visit www.marfalivearts.org