Fire in the Water, Earth in the Air: Legends
of West Texas Music
"Indeed, Oglesby's introduction of more
than two dozen musicians who called Lubbock home should be required
reading not only for music fans, but for Lubbock residents and
anyone thinking about moving here. On these pages, music becomes
a part of Lubbock's living history."
Deanna Shoemaker is a young director,
playwright, & performance artist. She was living and working
in Austin at the time of this interview, and is now a Porfessor
at Monmouth University in New Jersey.
It was the independent, free-thinking environment of the Lubbock High LEAP program of the early-'80s that provided Deanna the milieu to discover her true calling of Drama.
Like many intrepid West Texans before her, Deanna had to move on to points over the horizon to blossom into the working artist she is today.
After many years on divergent
paths, Deanna & I recently spent an afternoon drinking coffee
and getting re-acquainted. We shared many common emotions and
memories of our wild, free-spirited youth on the High Plains.
DS: As we were talking about Lubbock and whats happened with some of these friends we went to school with I think that theres something about Lubbock that inspires certain people to go really bad. [Laughs].
Chris: Oh, Yes. I agree.
DS: That whole conservative climate and just the bleakness
- I think, for some people, its been pretty destructive.
Its almost like being on another planet sometimes.
Like when that sun is going down and youre driving outside of town and theres no trees anywhere and theres like this big red ball of the sun Its weird!
Its a weird place. For me, when Im in Lubbock, suddenly all of my head just sort of explodes with creativity! Because theres so much room there!
I lived in Chicago after I left Lubbock; As a Texas girl,
I was watching the way I experienced Chicago - having so much
less space than I ever had in Lubbock, or in Texas in general.
Really, it did something very different to me.
go back to Texas, and I would fly into Lubbock and drive out
to Plains - way outside of Lubbock, where my parents live, way
out towards New Mexico
Also the slower life, I guess.
But its a weird place. Its a "mixed place," for me.
Theres some people I know who have gone on and really used where they came from in very creative ways; And theres other people who have just gotten caught up in a lot drugs - kind of the smallness of the life - when theyre actually capable of so much more.
Chris: I think that what happened with that one person we were talking about earlier was It had really gotten to the point where so much of his problem was he had a really strong sense of morality; Hes one of the most moral people Ive ever known, and I think that he saw so much wrongness and hypocriteness and badness, especially around his own particular environment, that he really lashed out in a way that was very personally destructive.
DS: Yea. That makes a lot of sense. Coming from a pretty prominent family in that town, where everybody knows your name, everybody knows who you are That must be pretty difficult, too. Cause its the kind of town where the people with the names I mean, its not a tiny town at all but there are those "prominent names."
Chris: I think the thing is, he saw so much wrong, I think that nothing was ever gonna be right for him. The "Black & White" thing is very a big deal there in Lubbock.
DS: Do you mean racially?
Chris: I meant Yin-Yangly; 'This or That" - Duality.
DS: "This is Right, and that is Wrong." "This is Good, and that is Bad "
Chris: "God-Satan" kind of thing, Yea. Exactly. Lubbock doesnt really give you a lot of room to straddle any fences.
exactly why I ended up at Lubbock High School.
[NOTE: Lubbock High is the
academic "magnet" school in Lubbock, featuring accelerated
college prep courses, as well as artistic programs such as dance,
music & theatre; One of the most awarded & academically
recognized public high schools in Texas. Monterey was, at the
time when we were in school, traditionally the more socially
conscious school where good looks and athletic ability seemed
to be valued more than ones ability to ace the SAT or win
State in orchestra. (Of course, this is the opinion held by Lubbock
High graduates; I'm sure our readers who went to MHS will take
issue. I admit my own bias. LHS Rules!)
DS: [Laughing] I remember all the people I remember the punks; I remember the deaf guy who was a cross-dresser and wore make-up
I traveled in between groups. I hung out with who I guess you would call the "Magnet" kids, the Honor Society
Chris: Werent you the President of the Student Council?
DS: Yea; In my Junior year. And yet, I had this other
circle of friends who were really more like the Mexican-American
students - who lived in that school district, who didnt
transfer in so they could be in the LEAP Program.
I just think I had more space at Lubbock High. I could be a real chameleon. I tried out a lot of different things.
Chris: I met you the first week of school when you were a Sophomore; And you changed a lot, after you came to Lubbock High. I remember a lot of it was you getting into Drama; "Dames at Sea", I think
DS: That was my "first show"; Yea.
Chris: What did you end up doing? Tell me about your education experience.
DS: After I graduated from Lubbock High, I went to
U.T. to the Theater Department for two years and really hated
Now Im back here in Austin, and I dont get back to Lubbock much any more. But I really do look at Lubbock as the place where I mean, if Id stayed in San Angelo, Texas - where I grew up - I dont know if I would have had nearly the experience of meeting all these different kinds of people and having a pretty decent theater department at Lubbock High School; doing Texas Tech theater.
I really feel like I got a pretty decent high school education. I worked my butt off. I was this split-personality. I was always the good student, like I would work really hard. But I would also be a part of the "party crowd" and try to kind of keep both lives going at the same time. But I liked the challenge.
I still think about Lubbock High. I loved that building. I just thought it was beautiful. That is one of my biggest connections to Lubbock still.
Because, as far as "Lubbock music" - thinking about your web-site - I mean, Ive been exposed to most of those "Lubbock" musicians through living in Austin. I was clueless about all that then.
One thing thats interesting about the conservatism of Lubbock is that, I really do think I ended up reacting to that conservatism by hanging out with certain crowds of people - I dont know if I should use specific names - But we would go to what they call the Tech Ghetto and find these little clubs that were basically gay bars, what in Lubbock would be very underground, seedy, pretty drug-infested places But it was great! It was like this whole other world that you could tap into there.
Then you come down to Austin and you can find all of that really easily. But there in Lubbock, it was nice to know that there was something else going on. It wasnt all as conservative as it seemed, or as wholesome as it seemed.
Chris: Maybe that intense need to break out is the well-spring of creativity I'm looking for?
DS: That town drives you to a certain kind of intensity
that is either constructive or destructive for you. I wouldnt
go back to raise a family there; But I feel like I can really
Chris: Little things take on a lot of miracles.
It was a strange thing for me going to college in Lubbock because once I realized that you dont have to be in school for eight hours a day When I realized the concept of "fifteen hours" means theres only fifteen hours a week that youre required to be somewhere I mean, thats a LOT of free time! In Lubbock.
DS: How do you spend your free time in Lubbock?
Chris: It took a lot of energy on my part trying to
work other people up to have the enthusiasm to do as much as
I wanted to do. I mean, I was just pretty much constantly bored.
DS: Yea, cause there really isnt a lot to do.
Chris: You gotta stir it up a lot.
DS: Do you go back? Do you go back to Lubbock a lot? I mean, your family is still there.
Chris: Yea. Ive been going back a whole lot more the last couple of years, with all this Lubbock involvement .
DS: Sure. I wonder if its changed much? If it feels like it has?
Chris: Yea. I mean, everything changes. One, its a lot bigger; Two, its a little bit "cooler," really. I think its gotten a little bit hipper. I think Rock-n-Roll has kind of been around enough, and people arent terrified of Black people anymore.
DS: Yea. It was a weird place, racially.
Chris: I think its [the City of Lubbock] a little bit cooler. But its still super-gung-ho conservative. I dont know; I always have a good time whenever I go back. But I dont have to live there.
Tell me what youre doing in Austin; I hear your name on the radio occassionally.
DS: Oh, yea! That was probably the workshop production of The Butcher's Daughter. We did a staged production on the radio; I mean, it wasnt just a reading. I had actors on their feet and we actually had a live band there in the studio. The show has a live band. The whole show is scored, basically.
So Ive done that type of thing. Ive done a lot of performance work in the Ph.D. program.
DS: The woman who wrote it - Jennifer Haley- is a good
friend. This was done by a group of artists who all of us are
connected in very weird ways. I know some of the artists through
my college in St. Louis; I know some people from moving here;
theres this intricate web of people. But its a group
of artists whove done a lot of work together before. Jennifer
was part of a theater company here in Austin, and had moved to
Ive done lots of other work here, too. Ive written
some of my own pieces and performed them at Frontera Fest
at Hyde Park Theater [in Austin]. They do Frontera-Fest every year, a big festival
where tons of people can do short performances. Ive done
several things there.
Chris: Whats "weird performance-art work?"
DS: Well, I guess I say that because most people have these ideas about performance-art being really goofy and abstract. [Laughs] Its definitely more experimental than my high school Dames at Sea production. [Laughs]. But just based on some of the stuff Im focusing on in graduate school.
Chris: And then do you have any long term
DS: Goals? [Laughs] Yea, my 5 year plan & my 10 year plan [Laughs]
Chris: I dont want nail you down to anything but Im just curious. I mean, its been a long time since Ive seen you.
DS: No, I dont. I dont ahve any plans. I mean, everybody thinks that when you get a Ph.D. youre gonna go teach at a university and do all that. And Im a little bit suspicious of that cause its a very competitive, very high-stress life. So I may try to use it in a less traditional way and teach part-time, and direct and perform. Cause it seems like once people end up going into teaching, they have no time to do artistic work at all, and thats where my passion is still. So thats really what I wanta keep doing.
Its just so hard to make a living doing what you want to do.
Chris: It is. [Sighs]
DS: Ive never done anything that is practical, that would lead me to a real practical kind of job. Even this Ph.D. is not that practical.
Chris: Yea. Ive done some things that would lead to practical jobs, and Ive never found a practical job that I really wanted to do, unfortunately. [Laughs]
DS: That you could live with, right.
Chris: I tried. I was a candidate for practical jobs but I never found one that I liked.
DS: Well, what about you, as far as your life in Lubbock? I mean, do you really see yourself being here, or what?
Chris: Ive tried to get away so many times from Austin. Its always getting so big, and Im always trying to leave. I moved to California a couple of times. And I tried to go back to Lubbock a couple of times, and every time something ended up happening.
Im just stuck in this unfortunate position of trying
to make a living while trying to be creative. Its like
working two jobs. Its tiring but I guess it's going forward
because thats what I want to do. I dont really know
whats gonna happen. I guess some day somebody will appreciate
it. [Laughs] So I just keep trying to go forward with these things
that interest me because I feel like you gotta do whats
stuff that drives me forward.
DS: Thats exactly Thats always been my struggle. And theres the perception of people around you. Like, "Youre still doing that art-thing? Youre still bringing in poverty-level wages? I mean, when are you gonna grow up?"
Chris: That is it. It is that.
DS: I think being married makes a difference for me.
I mean, theres this perception of, "Well, okay. At
least shes married
2007 Chris Oglesby
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