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UT Students Partner with Rude Mechs
Rude Mechs is on fire. Wrapping a tour of its critically acclaimed play The Method Gun, and gearing up for the opening of their new piece Stop Hitting Yourself in April, Austin’s premier ensemble-based theatre company is always eager to take on new projects. As the resident theatre company of The University of Texas at Austin Department of Theatre and Dance, Rude Mechs helps students apply their classroom knowledge with practical application. One way is through an internship program tasked with expanding Grrl Action, Rude Mechs’ outreach program designed to give girls the opportunity to express themselves on stage.
Grrl Action was founded in 1999 as a summer workshop providing teenage girls the opportunity to find a vision through power and performance. The three-week camp concludes with two days of solo performances that range from personal to shocking. “Every performance gives you chills,” says Madge Darlington, Grrl Action co-director and UT alumna (M.F.A. 2004). “One girl left her family when she was 17. It was a very controlling home life where she was never allowed to cut her hair. In her performance she talks about new newfound independence, and culminates the piece by cutting off her hair on stage."
In the middle of this expansion, Rude Mechs is tapping the energy and knowledgebase of Meg Greene and Noah Martin, graduate students in the UT Drama and Theatre for Youth and Communities (DTYC) program.
Greene and Martin began working in the Rude Mechs’ newly-minted internship program early this year. In some ways they’re more like partners than interns. They are building a database of past participants to create an administrative groundwork by which the project can blossom. “In the DTYC grad program the focus is mostly on pedagogy and instruction,” says Martin. “Our work with Grrl Action provides experience in the field.”
In addition to the administrative work, the students also meet with Darlington on a weekly basis to brainstorm ideas on how to expand and rebrand Grrl Action. “We’re working to create an identity that’s more in line with the Rude Mechs,” says Greene. “How it embodies its spirit.” She was attracted to the project because of her background in devising and playbuilding theatre with youth. “There aren’t that many devising programs in Austin right now. Grrl Action plays to my interests. It’s uncensored and very personal.”
In addition to the internship with Grrl Action, Theatre and Dance students interact with theatre professionals on their home turf as the department gears up for the Cohen New Works Festival presented by the University Co-op in March. “Rude Mechs held office hours in the Winship Atrium,” says Darlington. “It’s such a hub of activity. We had many informal but deep conversations with students about their upcoming Festival projects.” Darlington and Rude Mechs member, Sarah Richardson, will also serve as respondents for select Festival projects.
Rude Mechs’ residency and the internship program offers an invaluable opportunity to Theatre and Dance students to get first hand advice and knowledge of what successful theatre making and outreach looks like in the 21st century. “It really is the next step after our classroom work,” says Martin. “Learning the necessary skills to make a non-profit theatre project sustainable.”