Two theater directors are seated at a table, instructing students.

Absurdist Comedy Sparks ‘Rhinoceros’ Collaboration With Blinn

The Texas A&M University performance studies program’s first theatrical production under the new School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts is also its first collaboration with Blinn-Bryan Theatre Troupe.

The two theater programs have joined forces to present “Rhinoceros,” written by Eugène Ionesco and translated by Derek Prouse. It is co-directed by Anne Quackenbush, Texas A&M lecturer, and Greg Wise, Blinn theater instructor.

The production will open with three shows April 20-22 at Blinn-Bryan Student Center Theatre, then move to Texas A&M as part of Venture, the School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts’ weeklong showcase of student work. Three shows will be at the Black Box Theater in the Liberal Arts and Arts and Humanities Building April 27-29 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $5, available at

Wise brought a previous Blinn production to Black Box Theater, and approached Quackenbush to team up on “Rhinoceros” with her Collaborative Performance course (PERF 322).

“It’s a big show,” she said. “There’s a lot of moving parts. There’s a lot of people. Greg knew it would be effective if there could be two teams. We immediately said yes. I’ve worked with Greg for a long time and I love his work. We have a nice mutual admiration society, and we view things very similarly. It’s been fantastic.”

The play “showcases a great combination of our two programs,” Wise said.

“The production features students in the acting realm and design realm that are combining all these talents,” he said. “This is a challenging play to produce that would not have been possible without this collaborative partnership.”

“Rhinoceros” is a theater-of-the-absurd experience that centers on a small village that is disturbed by the appearance of rhinoceroses. The townspeople are gradually drawn in by the creatures and become them, Quackenbush said, but one man fights against this transformation.

Inesco wrote it as a warning against the dangers of fascism, and the theme of transformation was a key element in developing the production, Quackenbush said.  

“We had a lot of discussions early on — what should this transformation mean today?” she said. “We had such a broad variety of reactions in terms of what students saw as something dangerous, something that could be seductive. What’s safe? What could make you feel like the burden of making decisions, of being an individual, was taken off your shoulders? What would that be? And what would it be like to lose your voice — literally lose having a human voice and no longer be making decisions for yourself?”

Prior to rehearsals beginning in February, Quackenbush and the students explored the play’s background and how it employs existentialism and absurdism. Audiences can have a harder time responding to dark existential plays, she said, but calls this production “over the top.”

“Absurdist plays add a whole layer of silly,” she said. “It makes what you’re thinking about a surprise. And the next thing you know, you’re laughing again because it’s just big and broad. We spend literally a third of the time laughing when we’re directing. Wonderful comic timing from our kids; and that’s not easy.”

Rayna Dexter, instructional associate professor in performance studies, leads the play’s design team of students through her Collaborative Design course (PERF 321). Jeff Watson, theater facility coordinator, and a team of Texas A&M and Blinn students have taken on set construction. Senior performance studies major Grace Harmon serves as assistant director. Former Texas A&M faculty member Chris Cole is guest artist and lighting designer.

The students are enjoying the rehearsal process, according to Syara Villarreal, a cast member and junior performance studies major.

“It’s awesome,” she said. “I’m having a great time. It’s so great to be with the Blinn theater kids. They’re just like us. We’re all the same people in different ‘fonts.’ They come here twice a week; we go there on the weekends. It’s super exciting.”

Quackenbush said she’s “incredibly proud” of the students’ work.

“It’s coming together beautifully,” she said. “It’s definitely something we can be proud of. I think it’s a very topical play as well. It’ll entertain and give people a little something to chew.”

Details: April 20-22 at 7 p.m. at Blinn-Bryan Student Center Theatre. April 27-29 at 7 p.m. at the Black Box Theater in the Liberal Arts and Arts and Humanities Building. Tickets are $5 at

Photo by Spencer Bryant. Blinn theater instructor Greg Wise and Texas A&M performance studies lecturer Anne Quackenbush are the co-directors of the collaborative performance of “Rhinoceros.” Photo by Spencer Bryant.

About Venture

Introducing Venture, the inaugural celebration of creativity from students in the School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts. Join us April 25-29, when the sights and sounds of these talented artists will be on display at venues throughout the Rudder complex on the Texas A&M University campus.


The dance program’s annual Perpetual Motion performance will be in Rudder Auditorium for the first time. It features works by faculty members, students and guest artist Jane Weiner from Hopestone, Inc. in Houston. Students will perform “Sierra,” a 23-minute dance created by Carisa Armstrong, associate professor and dance program director, and Christine Bergeron, clinical professor and associate dean for academic affairs.

Details: April 27-28 at 7:30 p.m. at Rudder Auditorium. Tickets are $12; $6 for students, seniors and military, available at the MSC Box Office.

Related story: ‘Perpetual Motion’ Dance Event Gets Bigger Stage, Includes Return Of 23-Minute ‘Sierra’ Piece

Experimental Performance

The Live Art Student Showcase will feature projects created by students in Seminar in Performance Theory (PERF 460). Works will include encounters with “experiencing live,” experiments in performer/audience relationships, and explorations of the interwoven affective, embodied, cognitive and emotional experience of live performance. The students have been influenced by a wide range of artists and movements, from Dada to Bauhaus, Merce Cunningham and John Cage to Fluxus.

Details: April 27 at 1 p.m. at Rudder Forum.


The “Waste Wear Wearable Arts Runway Show” comes from the Dress in World Culture course (PERF 156), taught by Grace Adinku, which examines the social, psychological and cultural aspects of dress and appearance. Students are creating handcrafted, one-of-a-kind wearable arts dress designs using recyclable waste items including plastic, paper, metal and face masks, as well as clothing and textiles.

Details: April 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Rudder Forum. Free.


“Analogue Electronica” is a showcase of composers and performers from the Electronic Music Composition course (PERF 318), taught by Dr. Will Connor. Students are introduced to a variety of analogue electronic instruments and asked to improvise and compose for them to create a final project. The instruments include analogue synthesizers, theremins, no-input mixing boards, step sequencers, Kaossilators and haunted boxes — noise-making devices the students designed and built themselves. The 90-minute concert will feature compositions written and played by the students.

Details: April 25 at 7 p.m. at Rudder Theatre. Free.


The Student Research and Creative Works Symposium will show the wide variety of creativity explored in the various disciplines within the School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts.

Details: April 26 at 10 a.m. at Rudder Forum. Free.


“Rhinoceros,” Eugene Ionesco’s play, translated by Derek Prouse, is the School of Performance, Visualization and Fine Arts’ first theater production, and also its first collaboration with Blinn-Bryan Theatre Troupe. It is co-directed by Anne Quackenbush, Texas A&M lecturer, and Greg Wise, Blinn theater instructor. After three shows April 20-22 at Blinn-Bryan Student Center Theatre, “Rhinoceros” comes to Texas A&M as part of Venture.

Details: April 27-29 at 7 p.m. at the Black Box Theater in the Liberal Arts and Arts and Humanities building. Tickets are $5, available at


The 30th edition of Viz-a-GoGo is the visualization program’s presentation of curated student work, including an exhibition of digital and traditional flatwork, photography, sculpture and interactive media. A theater screening is held to showcase time-based media, including animated and live-action films, game demos and CG renders. Awards known as “the Vizzies” are announced at the end of the screening, one for each artistic medium and an overall award for best in show. 

Details: The exhibition is April 26-28 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Rudder Exhibit Hall. Gaming and virtual reality projects will be available to play from 2 to 7 p.m. The screening is April 27 at 7 p.m. at Rudder Theatre. Free.

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