by Mariane Gutierrez
Rotating annually between visual, performing, and literary arts, the 2020 Roy Crane Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts was presented to four College of Fine Arts graduate and undergraduate students whose contributions in these areas helped propel performances forward.
This year, the award was presented in the category of performing arts to theatre and dance doctoral candidate Khristián Méndez Aguirre, dance senior Mackenzie Lawrence, composition doctoral candidate Jose Martinez and dance senior Emily Tolson.
To be considered for the award, each applicant submitted a portfolio documenting work done in or out of UT. Méndez Aguirre said each of his submissions gave him an opportunity to challenge himself within traditional forms.
“Each of the projects I included on that portfolio had a twist to them that made it an additional challenge: the zero-waste production for Mr. Burns, the compostable set for Mammoth and the labor audit for Everybody,” Méndez Aguirre said. “None of these are traditional practices in a conventional environment, but what I learned from each process is definitely something I want to put forward as I venture into the field.”
Because of the social distancing required by the pandemic, live theatre is more difficult to produce; however, Méndez Aguirre is currently working to direct next year's mainstage production, Heddatron by Elizabeth Merriwhether, under these new circumstances.
In his portfolio, composition graduate student Jose Martinez included his work from the feature 39 Inside. The multimedia piece dives into the issue of undocumented immigration, using chamber music, electronics, video and dance to tell the story of 39 undocumented immigrants found inside a semitrailer in a Walmart parking lot.
Martinez often incorporates Colombian folk tunes Latin music, heavy metal and audio sampling techniques into his compositions. His work has been performed by Alarm Will Sound, Wild Up, Grammy award-winning quartet Third Coast Percussion and many others.
During her years at UT, dance student Mackenzie Lawrence has been involved in several dance productions like What Do You Know About Ghosts?, Reflects/Reflex, I Know You'd Be Asking and The Stamina of Joy. She said these works were deeply formative to her development as an artist and person and gave her an opportunity to showcase her strengths as both a performer and choreographer.
“I plan to use the award to aid me as I transition from my life as a college student to life as an independent artist,” Lawrence said. “Beginning adulthood is scary! Especially in a time like this. But having this award provides me a little bit of security to keep exploring my art amidst the fear.”
Last summer Lawrence also studied in New York City at Gibney Dance Studio, where she was able to network with professionals in the field and further develop her portfolio and skills as an artist.
Dance student Emily Tolson’s portfolio included her choreography in Spillage, most recently performed at the Cohen New Works Festival. The contemporary dance piece showcases Asian American women battling with their identity in relation to whiteness and patriarchy and breaks cultural narratives.
Tolson’s most recent work was performed in Revolve: A Movement Display, where she choreographed a group piece.
The Roy Crane Award provides support for these artists’ future works to inspire the university community and other performers alike.
“I think that awards like this are really important in ensuring that fine arts are appreciated within the scope of the entire university,” Lawrence said.