By David King
The graduate program in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Texas State attracts, as chair John Fleming describes it, a healthy mix of students.
It has some coming straight out of undergraduate work and some 20-year veterans of the theater. Its students have a wide range of interests, from acting to writing, props to directing.
And it also has students like Georgia Young, a native of Massachusetts whose bachelor’s degree was in journalism. She will be awarded her master’s degree Thursday, just days after her 30th birthday and less than a month after earning one of her field’s most-prestigious honors: a scholarship to the O’Neill National Critics Institute.
The institute is an intensive two-week workshop for drama critics at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center in Waterford, Conn. Participants will be turning out work and having it evaluated by their peers as well as established writers in the field.
“It’s a place to spend a couple of weeks developing your craft and observing the play writing process,” Young says. “It’s pretty cool.”
She already has done some work as a critic, on top of years of singing, acting and working behind the scenes on productions.
“What I’d like to do is expand my writing to cover Texas theater on a regional or national level,” she says. “I’m looking to continue to talk about theater.”
She earned a reputation in the Texas State graduate program as someone who would try just about anything. For example, she came to San Marcos with no interest in directing, but says she now would like to give it a try. She also wound up running the theater’s box office, supervising undergraduates.
“She’s got skills in all these different areas, which is great,” says Fleming. “The next thing is for her to narrow and focus for advanced study and for job purposes.”
Young’s main field of study was dramaturgy, the art of turning words on a page into a production. She advanced to the American College Theater Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., last month in both dramaturgy and criticism, and she took part in an intensive drama critics workshop with professionals from newspapers and radio.
“The cool thing about the critics workshop was that it gave me a lot of ideas for new venues for writing,” she says. “I’m a working theater person in Austin; I’m part of a company. It was interesting to learn about the relationship between a critic and the community you’re observing and commenting on.”
She grew up with a passion for the theater, but earned a journalism degree from Boston’s Emerson College and worked as a book editor for several years. In the spring of 2008, she and a friend took a road trip to Austin to visit another friend, and the whole Central Texas vibe appealed to her.
“I had been thinking about a change,” she says. “I was in my mid 20s and ready to try something new. Coming here from Boston in March was something. We left Boston with snow on the ground and we got here and we’re sitting on a porch drinking iced coffee in the sunshine.”
She moved south, looked around for a graduate program in theater, and picked Texas State.
“It’s a really, really nice community in the department, with a lot of talented, intelligent people and super-supportive faculty,” she says. “It’s great.”
She certainly impressed the department’s chair.
“She’s very sharp, very good at integrating a wide variety of ideas from a wide variety of sources,” says Fleming, who was her professor during a Study Abroad session last summer.
Her success this spring is helping enhance the department’s reputation nationwide. She was one of three graduate students who advanced to the competition at the Kennedy Center; Laura Garza reached the national event in directing and Lupe Flores in writing.
“I just love theater, and I want more people to be interested in it,” Young says. “That’s why I got into criticism. It wasn’t to trash people — although sometimes I don’t like people’s work — it was more to say, ‘Hey, all you people who spend 10 bucks to go to the movies in Austin, a lot of live shows are almost that cheap, and you ought to check them out.’”