Notes from the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival

By Andie Chilson

Kevin and Sam Sorbo with Moderator, Jim Nash of The Shooter FM, during the Talk Back after the Opening Night Movie, “Miracle in East Texas,” which was produced by Sam Sorbo and directed by Kevin Sorbo (who also starred in the movie)

The inaugural Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival took place from Feb. 6-8. The festival provided a forum for artists and directors who work at the intersection of faith, family and contemporary filmmaking. The mission statement of the festival, “dedicated to empowering the creative spirit, serving with heart and celebrating all” shone through in the winning films at the festival.

The festival showcased films rooted in family and faith while also giving a voice to a breadth of ideas and diversity of backgrounds. Among the winning films were Bending in the Wind (Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film (USA)), Nasser Goes to Space (Grand Jury Prize For Best Short Film (International)) and Be the Light (Grand Jury Prize for Best Feature Film (USA/International)). The festival screened over 60 films at 11 different locations at Baylor University, local churches and the Waco Hippodrome Theatre.

The Grand Jury Prize for Best Student Film went to student-director Nicole Thompson for her film Blackbird.

Blackbird is really important to me because it honors my grandmother,” Thompson said. “I wanted to make a film that showcases the everyday people … that also have a dream,” Thompson continued.

Filmmakers like Thompson were drawn to the festival for its unique emphasis on faith and family values. These values were reflected in the “Soul Sessions” that followed the screenings. The “Soul Sessions” gave audience members a chance to discuss the themes of faith and spirituality in the films. Topics discussed during these sessions included overcoming fear and doubt and the concept of eternal love.

Dr. Tyrha Lindsey-Warren, the festival’s founder, said she was elated by the response from the filmmakers as well as Waco locals. (Side note: Act Locally Waco will be interviewing Dr. Lindsey-Warren on the Act Locally Waco podcast about the festival and her work in Waco – stay tuned!)

2020 Champions Award Recipients for the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival (l to r)- Sam Sorbo, Gina Neely, and Kevin Sorbo (a.k.a. “Mr. Hercules”)

The festival also honored its “Champion Award” recipients. The Champion Award recognizes artists and organizations who exemplify innovative, against-the-grain thinking in the film, television, performing arts and entertainment industries. Recipients of the Champion Award included President of TFNB Bank, David Littlewood, celebrity chef and best-selling author, Gina Neely, film producer, radio host, author and model, Sam Sorbo and her husband, actor and director, Kevin Sorbo,

The second annual Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival will take place on Feb. 4-6, 2021. For more information, visit See you there!

Andie Chilson is a senior at Baylor University studying journalism and creative writing. She is originally from Houston, but Waco has quickly come to feel like a second home to her. Andie enjoys writing and digital content creation as a way to express her creativity and help people spread their message. In her free time, you can find her reading anything by Brené Brown, doing yoga or exploring downtown Waco. Andie is so excited to be working as part of the Act Locally Waco team this semester!

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.


Press Release – (January 28, 2020)  An unprecedented music and movie collaboration launches in Central Texas, Keep Waco Loud and the Deep in the Heart Film Festival present: the 254 Music Video Race. 

“We have such vibrant music and filmmaking scenes in Waco – we can’t wait for them to come together,” says Samuel Thomas, Deep in the Heart Festival Artistic Director.

Central Texas bands, musicians and musical acts (all genres, rap to rock, hip hop to country and everything in-between) are encouraged to meet up and team up with area filmmakers to create new music videos in the 254 Music Video Race.

Teams will have two weeks to plan, produce and edit new music videos.  Race officials will select three music videos to screen at the ‘Blood, Sweat & Beats’ World Premiere on February 22nd at the Waco Hippodrome. All participating artists are encouraged to attend, view the finalists and help select the winner. An audience vote will choose a winner who will receive cash prizes, a featured spot on the Keep Waco Loud podcast, and their video will be an official selection in the Deep in the Heart Film Festival in August.

Musical artists and filmmakers can start their videos on February 1 or find your collaborators at our Filmmaker/Musician meet-and-greet, 7:00 pm, February 3rd at Klassy Glass. To register a team for the race (FREE ENTRY!), read all the rules and requirements at our website,  

About the ‘Blood, Sweat & Beats’ Premiere

The world premiere of ‘Blood, Sweat & Beats’ will showcase the top three videos of the 254 Music Video Race. The documentary is a story of music, money and murder – birthed in the Bronx, but raised here in Waco. The film sheds light on this thriving music scene in Central Texas, interviewing the foundational artists in Waco, exploring the journey of the genre, and meeting the creators whose musical passion drives their lives. 

It’s an evening celebrating Hip Hop in Waco with live music from Verbal Seed, DQ Hampton, Chyrie, Scratch Master T and Donna C, breakdance performances from Battle Grounds Crew, live street art from Skcoobaveli.  

For premiere tickets, check out the Hippodrome website,

Deep in the Heart Film Festival announces world premiere of ‘Blood, Sweat and Beats’ – The Story of Waco Hip Hop

Press Release – It’s a story of music, money and murder – birthed in the Bronx, but raised here in Waco, the Deep in the Heart Film Festival proudly hosts an evening of live music, breakdancing and street art to celebrate the World Premiere of ‘Blood, Sweat & Beats’, the Waco Hip Hop Story.   

The documentary sheds light on this vibrant music scene in Central Texas, interviewing the foundational artists in Waco, exploring the journey of the genre, and meeting the creators whose musical passion drives their lives.   

“We’ve prayed for a day like this. A day to be recognized for the music game. The scene is so powerful here. We want the young kids to see where it comes from.” says DJ Precyse, Executive Producer.  

The World Premiere of the film “Blood, Sweat, and Beats” hits the silver screen February 22, at 7:00 pm at the Waco Hippodrome.    

The evening kicks off with the red carpet arrivals of the filmmakers and featured artists. Next, live music takes the stage with performances from Verbal Seed, DQ Hampton, Chyrie, Scratch Master T and Donna C, breakdance performances from Battle Grounds Crew, graffiti artist, Skcoobaveli creates a brand new piece at the entrance of the theater and the evening is hosted by comedian, Terry Bluez. This is truly a showcase for all facets of the hip hop scene in our area.   

The evening concludes with the World Premiere of ‘Blood, Sweat and Beats’ and a Q&A with filmmakers and featured artists including multi-Grammy-Award winning producer, Symbolyc One.  This famed, Waco-born producer has worked with Beyonce, Jay-Z, Lorde, Madonna, Eminem and many more.  

Tickets are now available for the premiere at the Hippodrome website,   

“Keep Waco Loud aims to support and empower all genres of music, and we feel that sharing this rich history through film is the perfect way to shine a spotlight on the Waco hip hop community.” says Keep Waco Loud founder, Katie Selman.   

Director Lindsay Liepman, on why it was important to tell this story as a feature film, “You only get one chance to tell the story for the first time. I wanted to make sure we took our time and interviewed as many people as possible to best represent this thriving community in Waco.”   

Sponsors for this World Premiere event include, 25 News, 94.5 The Beat, Keep Waco Loud, One of a Kind Records and the Deep in the Heart Film Festival. 

About Deep in the Heart Film Festival

Set in Waco, Texas, the Deep in the Heart Film Festival (DitHFF) is an annual festival attracting artists and filmmakers from all over the world. Held across four days packed with entertainment and learning, DitHFF is a celebration of film as an artform for the people.

“The festival really has something for everyone: family films, horror films, rom-coms, documentaries… If you like movies, you’ll find something to love here,” said Louis Hunter, Festival Operations Director. 

In addition to the annual festival, Deep in the Heart is dedicated to promoting independent filmmaking in the Central Texas area, seeking to inspire local filmmakers and celebrating the stories they tell.

About the Waco Hippodrome

The Waco Hippodrome Theatre is a 105-year-old theatre in the heart of downtown Waco. The theatre has survived many trials and tribulations including a fire and the devastating tornado of 1953. In 2012 the hippodrome was bought and renovated after sitting vacant and dilapidated for several years. It reopened its doors in 2014 as a dine-in movie theatre, bar, restaurant, and entertainment venue featuring live music. New additions to the facility make it a film destination in Waco. See what we have going on each day at and follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter: @wacohippodrometheatre.

Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival: A Film Festival for All!

“Any form of art is a form of power; it has impact, it can affect change – It can not only move us, it makes us move!”

Ossie Davis, Award-winning Actor of TV, Stage, and Film

By Dr. Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren, Festival Founder + Producer

The inaugural Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival, taking place at the Waco Hippodrome Theater and other venues February 7-8, 2020, will leverage the power of film and storytelling to bring the Waco community together to celebrate our shared humanity. There are over 60 films being presented by talented filmmakers from all over the world. Be it comedy, drama, or animation, the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival has a film for you because it is truly a film festival for the entire family!

The team for the 2020 Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival is a dedicated group comprised of handpicked creatives, community leaders, educators, and business professionals that believe in equitable storytelling that represents all of us. The festival team has been brought together by a shared passion for the power of film and the arts to open hearts and minds, a love for the creative process, innovation, and excellence. That is why the mission for the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival is that it is “dedicated to EMPOWERING the creative spirit, SERVING with heart, and CELEBRATING all!”

Specifically, the two day event will celebrate the Waco community and feature live performances by local musical artists, film screenings at a total of 11 venues in Waco, including five churches where our “Film & Faith Soul Sessions” will take place. These specially designed screenings will use film as the entry point to discuss faith-based themes. Plus, we will end our festival with a fun Closing Night/Pre-Oscar Awards Party at Z’s at the Curry on Saturday, February 8, 2020.

In addition, the 2020 Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival will commence the start of its inaugural class of “Champions Award” recipients. This honor is dedicated to recognizing individuals and organizations who are exemplars of innovation as well as disruption in the film and entertainment industry. The 2020 “Champions Award” recipients will be Kevin Sorbo, known as “Mr. Hercules,” and also the Director of the festival’s Opening Night film, “Miracle in East Texas;”  Sam Sorbo, Kevin’s wife and an acclaimed actress, model and author. Sam produced the film, “Miracle in East Texas.”  Gina Neely, Star of The Food Network and New York Times Best-Selling Author, and David Littlewood, President and CEO of TFNB Bank: Your Bank for Life

The sponsors for the 2020 Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival include the festival’s Founding Partner, TFNB Bank: Your Bank for Life. The Gold Star Sponsors are

Creative Waco and Z’s at the Curry. The Awards Sponsor is the Magnolia Foundation. The festival’s Community Sponsors are Pruit Memorial Symposium at Baylor University, Cameron Park Zoological & Botanical Society, Delta Alpha Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., Tru Jamaica, and Ken-Ko.  The Media Partners are KWTX-TV/Ch. 10 and M&M Broadcasters, LTD.

Tickets are $5.00 to only the movie screenings at the Waco Hippodrome Theater. The rest of the screenings at the other 10 participating venues are FREE!

Ultimately, we hope to be able to make a global impact and change the face of storytelling and the storytellers in the film and entertainment industry. We also hope with this festival, we can bring people together from all walks of life and serve them with narratives, community performances, educational workshops, and more, that provoke thought, empower continued dialogue, and feed the soul.

Dr. Tyrha M. Lindsey-Warren is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University. At Baylor, Dr. Lindsey-Warren teaches Advertising, Digital Marketing and is the Founder of the Baylor Business Advertising Summit. She is also the Founder and Producer of the Waco Family & Faith International Film Festival. In her spare time, Dr. Lindsey-Warren sings jazz professionally and has opened for GRAMMY award-winning jazz musicians. Dr. Lindsey-Warren is married to Sidney Warren, a successful entrepreneur.  

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email a[email protected]for more information.


By Angie Veracruz

Creativity cannot thrive in isolation. For centuries, art and literature have complimented each other to inspire thriving art cultures around the world. Central Texas Artist Collective (CTAC) has been challenging our creative friends to create ekphrastic displays that educate, enlighten, and gather community since 2016.

Ekphrasis is defined as a writer’s exercise, where artwork is viewed and poetically described in detail by the writer. CTAC’s 2019 EKPHRASIS: VERACITY, the art of truth telling, will create an ekphrastic journey through Waco’s History, while focusing on Migration to Immigration stories and Mental Health, or the psychological effects that ripple through generations. Twenty ekphrastic displays will tell these truthful stories as experienced by the artists and writers themselves, or inspired stories from those who live and thrive in Central Texas.

The curated VERACITY Art Walk will be free to the public for the month of October while in storefront windows on Austin and Washington Ave between 6th and 8th street. We are asking the community to vote for their favorite ekphrastic display by October 30th. Please use the following link to vote:

The VERACITY ekphrastic displays will culminate at Cultivate7Twelve Art Gallery on November 1st.   This will be a ticketed event of $10 to help support CTAC’s programming and host gallery space, Cultivate7twelve.  Your ticket purchase will include two drinks, a once in a lifetime performance by Isis Lee, film entry viewings, the award ceremony, and more.

Central Texas Artist Collective exists to foster creative expression throughout the Heart of Texas by:

  • Unifying and growing arts and cultural programming;
  • Enhancing arts education and access for all;
  • Cultivating an organic, sustainable identity; and
  • Celebrating the rich community of artists living, creating and investing in Waco and beyond.
  • Connect with us through our website or social media at,, or email: [email protected]

Angie Veracruz is an intuitive artist who is influenced by the world around through reflective insights. She is the mother of three beautiful girls and their biggest education advocate. She is also the Executive Director of Central Texas Artist and has been creating community, connecting artists and fostering arts and culture in Central Texas since 2015.

Hispanic Heritage Month: How to Celebrate in Waco!

By Kennedy Sam

Each year during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), we as a nation recognize and celebrate the cultural contributions of the almost 59 million Hispanic Americans in the United States. This is a special time for many Latin American communities as they celebrate their independence. Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, Mexico, Chile and Belize all gained their independence during this time frame. This is the perfect opportunity to join in on the celebration honoring Hispanic heritage, culture and influence!

One of our latest episodes of Conversations with Creative Waco featured local leaders Alfred Solano, President/CEO of the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Arts Organizer Monica Shannon talking about the importance of Hispanic Culture in Waco. ( Catch up on the episode. )  Inspired by those conversations, and in honor of the month-long celebration, we’ve put together a list of six ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage in our community:

Six Ways to Celebrate Hispanic Culture

1. Mexican Independence Day Parade

Sunday, Sept. 22 from 1-2 p.m. on Austin Avenue

The Waco Hispanic Museum is celebrating Hispanic culture with its first parade. The parade will run on Austin Ave. from 9th to 3rd street. If you would like to get involved and participate, please contact Louis Garcia at 254-548-9730.

2.  Fiestas Patrias 2019!

Sunday, Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. at the Extraco Events Center

Fiestas Patrias is a FREE event celebrating Mexico’s Independence Day. This family-friendly event features live music, food and drinks, moon-walks, and more fun for the whole family!

3. Jacob de Cordova: “Father of Waco” Fall Lecture with Vann de Cordova

Tuesday, Sept. 24 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Lee Lockwood Library and Museum

Learn more about Waco’s diverse history from David Vann de Cordova, the third great-grandson of Waco’s founder Jacob de Cordova. Through the retelling of his life, David Vann de Cordova recalls Jacob’s legacy and his amazing exploration in Texas.

Discover how Jacob’s unique background — a Jewish, Jamaican-born Spaniard — has continued to impact our city throughout generations. This FREE lecture is hosted by The Historic Waco Foundation, in collaboration with the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, McLennan County Historical Commission, and Texas Fine Artists.

Also, you can find a timeline of Jacob de Cordova’s “Waco Adventure” on display on Waco Transit’s fleet of buses during this month-long celebration!

4. Hispanic Heritage and Arts Celebration

Friday, Sept. 27 from 6-9 p.m. at the Art Forum of Waco

“Freida Kahlo: Fountain of Inspiration. Photo by Art Forum of Waco.”

Celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture through art! This free event at the Art Forum of Waco will feature original pieces by over 33 local artists highlighting or inspired by Hispanic heritage. Enjoy live music, art, and an award presentation ceremony sponsored by Allen Samuel’s DCJ! Hosted by the Cen-Tex Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Texas Fine Artists, join the festivities at the Second Annual Hispanic Heritage Art Show and Celebration.

The Art Forum of Waco also serves as a Hispanic arts cultural hub. The gallery often features exhibits honoring influential Hispanic artists like Frida Kahlo and holidays like Día de los Muertos. Stay up to date with the gallery’s events here!

5. Dia del Charro

Sunday, Oct. 6 from 12-8:30 p.m. at the Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart Church is hosting their Annual Dia del Charro Festival on the church patio grounds.

This celebration is one of the biggest Charro Day Festival in Central Texas. Come out and enjoy food, games, live music, Charreria and Horse Show, and Ballet Folklorico. This is a family friendly event honoring cultures from various Mexican Regions.

6. Support Local Artists and Businesses

Last but not least, one of the best ways to celebrate is by supporting local artists and businesses. Many of our entrepreneurs were inspired by their heritage and culture when they created their products. When you support their craft and buy local you are helping to bring our community together and boosting our local economy. This is an awesome way to celebrate Hispanic heritage and culture year-round!

Kennedy Sam is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Creative Waco, McLennan County’s arts agency. As a longtime Waco resident, upon receiving her degree from Louisiana State University was excited to return to her hometown to begin her career serving the community she loves. In her spare time, she enjoys rediscovering all that Waco has to offer and exploring the many walking trails with her pup Bleu. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

ARTPrenticeship 2019 Broadens Horizons for WISD Interns

By Kennedy Sam

In summer of 2018, through a partnership with Creative Waco, Waco ISD, Prosper Waco’s summer intern program, and generous local sponsors, ARTPrenticeship was brought to life. Ten rising seniors from Waco ISD gained real-world, concept-to-completion, mentored work experience and created the mural “1000 Hopes for Waco” in the process.

Richard C. Thomas (Photo by Andreas Zaloumis)

This summer, we are back for year two — but this time with two walls. Similar to last year, we’ve hired 12 apprentices from Waco ISD and six local professional artists serving as the creative team guiding the apprentices. One new addition to this year’s program is well-known New Orleans artist and muralist, Richard C. Thomas, serving as a teaching artist and lead designer on one of the murals.

Thomas’ work graces the New Orleans International Airport, an Iowan mural dedicated to immigration, 20th anniversary posters for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and on the walls at Waco’s own Kieran-Sistrunk Fine Art Gallery during the month of July.

You can find the murals in-progress at Brotherwell Brewing and the Family Health Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. Community Clinic.

We want to get the Waco community involved as much as possible, so we invite you to Community Paint Days! Join our apprentices and creative team for the morning to paint and learn more about their experiences working with ARTPrenticeship, plus get a sneak peak of the designs. No experience needed, just come out and support our young creatives as they make their mark!

Family Health Center – MLK Jr. Clinic

July 13, 8 – 11 a.m.

Brotherwell Brewing

July 20, 8 – 11 a.m.

I sat down with two apprentices to hear about their experience thus far as a part of ARTPrenticeship 2019 program. Kaeleana Ramirez is a rising junior at University High School working with the mural team at the Family Health Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. clinic. Upon completing high school, she plans to attend college on the west coast or in Hawaii to study marine biology. Lillian Olvera is a recent graduate from University High School working with the mural team at Brotherwell Brewing. She plans to continue her education at McLennan Community College to study art.

What made you interested in applying for the ARTPrenticeship program this year?

Kaeleana: I love art! I’ve been taking advanced art classes since middle school. This upcoming year I’m moving up to Pre-AP Art, so when I heard of this program I had to apply.

Lillian: I actually wanted to participate in the program last year, but it didn’t work out. This year I came to the information session about the program at University and decided to apply. This is my first job, so I thought this would be a great opportunity do so something I’m passionate about and gain work experience.

How have you enjoyed working alongside the teaching artists?

K: I’ve definitely enjoyed working alongside the teaching artists.  I knew there were artists in town but I thought they typically focus on creating work that would go in a gallery, not dedicating their time to help teach high school apprentices how to paint murals.

L: This has been a fun experience and it’s cool seeing professional artists in our community. I’m mostly familiar with our art teachers who are professional artists too, but it’s interesting seeing and getting to work with people who are full time artists.

What were some of the goals that you set during the studio sessions for this summer? Do you feel like you’re on track to hit those goals?

K: The main goal was to broaden my horizon. Usually I create small projects like painting on canvases or spray painting, but I wanted to learn more ways to improve on my techniques. I also wanted to work on being less critical of my work. ARTPrenticeship has definitely taught me a lot about the creative process.

L: A few of my goals that I identified were to be able to work with the group full of other creatives, learn how to manage a project of this magnitude from concept to completion, down to how plan out a budget. I’ve definitely learned all of that and more.

Has working on a creative project like ARTPrenticeship impacted the type of working environment or career path you aspire to work in?

K: In general, it’s taught me a lot about working with a group and how to manage working alongside other people’s personalities. Although I don’t plan to go into the creative field, however, there are some creative qualities that will help me be successful.

L: My dream is to open up a studio like Marvel or Disney that focuses on design, animation, and fashion. This program has taught me some invaluable things that would help me create my studio and I’ve met a few people who want to help me attain that goal.

What has been one of the greatest lessons that you will take with you in the future?

K: There’s a lot! Learning how to work as a group, a part of a whole instead of as an individual has been an interesting lesson. We’ve learned how to work in different parts or sections but still communicate different ideas in a professional environment.

L: I’ve learned that it’s ok to make mistakes. You rarely get something right the first time, so sometimes you need to step away then come back with a clear mind. It’s all a part of the creative process.

To learn more about ARTPrenticeship visit us at

Kennedy Sam is the Director of Marketing and Communications for Creative Waco, McLennan County’s arts agency. As a longtime Waco resident, upon receiving her degree from Louisiana State University was excited to return to her hometown to begin her career serving the community she loves. In her spare time, she enjoys rediscovering all that Waco has to offer and exploring the many walking trails with her pup Bleu. 

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

Getting my yearly dose of Shakespeare… in Waco!

InSite is a “creative placemaking” initiative in Waco, Texas. Creative placemaking uses the arts and design as tools for transforming communities, strengthening local identity, and leading social change.  Right now, they are focusing on theatre production, but they plan to offer arts education programming for kids and adults, and opportunities to get involved in public and pop-up art and other projects!

Their current project is a series of three “Shakespeare Studios.”  Each studio will include a collection of scenes, sonnets, and soliloquies focused on a theme.  The first of these studios “Love and War” will be presented July 16 at Brotherwell Brewing.

In today’s post a local high school student shares her excitement about finding an opportunity to indulge her love of Shakespeare. – ABT  

By Zoë Seagle

I have been acting in Shakespearean plays since I was eight years old. I was a part of a homeschool co-op that performed yearly at the Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Waxahachie. I remember watching the older kids performing their main roles, delivering their monologues, and delving into their characters to the point that they weren’t themselves anymore. I could only dream! I was this very tiny, very homeschooled, terrified kid. The first time someone introduced themselves to me, I screamed and ran behind a couch for protection. (I stayed there, crying, for a good hour.) My director at the time, Tracey Villanueva, swore she would break me out of my shell. I was not pleased with her determination, but I don’t know where I would be if she had not seen through my walls.

You know the cliché poster in the child’s room of their idol? Well, Shakespeare was the guy on my wall. I was fascinated with his work and lifestyle. I mean, he made 2000+ words up and over 30+ plays! That’s creativity at its finest. 

Two years ago, I enrolled in a public high school, and sadly that ended my performances in the Scarborough Fair. Not having my yearly dose of Shakespeare was strange. I searched for a group during those two Shakespeare-dry years that performed or studied Shakespeare plays in Waco, but no such luck. I did manage to find Jubilee Theatre, though, the small, tight-knit group I soon called home. Jubilee’s director, Trent Sutton, blew my mind with his actor-focused plays. It was like nothing I’d ever been a part of before. When he told me about how he was transitioning to InSite, a growing theatre organization taking a huge interest in Shakespeare, I was absolutely thrilled! A group that would give me my yearly dose of Shakespeare and have one of the best directors I’ve ever had? Consider me family!

Since following Trent to Insight, I have met Luann Jennings, the founder of InSite, and Stefanie Wheat-Johnson, who both have very mesmerizing ways of directing. I’m excited to watch InSite grow and become something absolutely amazing for Waco. So, keep an eye out for our productions and spread the word about InSite to your friends and family! Look out Waco, because here we come!

Zoë Seagle is an 11th grade student at Rapoport Academy. She loves to perform, play music, and write when she isn’t at school. She has been singing and acting for many years now, and hopes to continue to do so in the future.

What’s in a name?

“’Tis but thy name that is my enemy;
Thou art thyself though, not a Montague….
What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet….”

Juliet was saying that a family name, or a group identity, is less important than the qualities of an individual. However, in Juliet’s speech and the rest of the famous “balcony scene,” Shakespeare reveals both Romeo and Juliet to be naïve and blinded by love. In fact, names mean a lot, as the young lovers would soon learn.

What does the name “Shakespeare” mean to you? His name gets used like a “brand” to mean someone who’s good with words, the way someone who’s smart in science gets called “Einstein.”

I’ve loved Shakespeare since I was a little girl. I grew up in Atlanta, and my dad used to take me to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival every summer, where we’d see three different Shakespeare plays in two days. Because I was young, and often didn’t understand everything that was being said by the adults around me, it didn’t bother me that I didn’t understand everything that was being said on the stage. When his stories were being performed by actors who knew what they were doing, his fancy words were a bonus, not a barrier.  

Does Shakespeare have anything to say to us today in Waco? Some friends and I think so. I’m a theatre director and, since I moved to Waco nearly three years ago, I’ve gotten to know many people in the theatre community. Two in particular, Stefanie Wheat-Johnson and Trent Sutton, have similar interests and aspirations to mine, and we decided to collaborate on three “Shakespeare Studio” productions. These will bring together the best scenes, speeches, and sonnets from Shakespeare’s work around a particular theme. Our first, Love and War, will be performed July 16-18, and will feature a dozen talented actors ranging from high school students to community theatre regulars to professional actors. Our second Shakespeare Studio production will be Music, Magic…and Murder at Halloween, followed by Law and Order in the spring. Then…a full-length Shakespeare-in-the-Park production next summer!

Our arts organization is called “InSite.” What does that name mean? It’s a play on the word “insight,” which we believe happens when we thoughtfully engage with the arts. It’s also a play on the word “site,” or location. Since we don’t have a theatre building, we’ll be doing the plays “in sites” around Waco. Love and War will be presented at Brotherwell Tap Room in East Waco, which is much more like the places where Shakespeare’s plays would have originally been presented than the dark, quiet theatres of today.

Our name also refers to the fact that InSite is a “creative placemaking” initiative. The practice of creative placemaking is based in the belief that the arts and creativity are necessary to the identity and thriving of a community. When we gather around stories, events, and works of art that are meaningful to us, we help make Waco a great place to live, work, and visit!

In addition to Shakespeare, we have more fun and interesting performances planned! Learn more about InSite and the Shakespeare Studios, buy tickets, and join our email list at; and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Luann Purcell Jennings (writer), Trent Sutton, and Stefanie Wheat-Johnson have, among them, more than 50 years of experience in directing, teaching, community building, Christian ministry, organizational startup, and more. They are creative, motivated, and determined to see Waco impacted by the ways that art can transform this beautiful city.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.

Gobsmacked: Waco Dance Company Explores the Risk and Beauty of Self-Discovery

Interview by Ty Hall

Have you ever been Gobsmacked? Utterly astonished and astounded?  On April 6 you have an opportunity to explore what it means to be “Gobsmacked” through an evening of modern dance, music, food and wine presented by Brooke Schlecte and Waco’s Out on a Limb Dance Company.   

Out on a Limb

L. Brooke Schlecte, founder and artistic director of Out on a Limb Dance Company, was born and raised in Waco, Texas. After graduating from Reicher Catholic High School in 1999, she attended Kilgore Junior College, where she performed with the world-famous Kilgore College Rangerettes.  After graduating from Kilgore in 2001, she continued her dance education at the University of Texas in Austin where she graduated with honors in 2003 with a Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance.  “I have always danced. It has always been a part of me.” Says Brooke, “It has continued to guide me, teach me, excite me, challenge me, and keep me curious. I just keep searching and digging for the areas I love most and the ideas I want to explore with choreography.”

Schlecte graduated with a Master’s of Fine Arts in Dance from TWU in 2007.  That same year she moved back home to Waco and founded Out On A Limb Dance Company.  Since its formation, Out On a Limb Dance Company (OOLD) has choreographed and performed across the nation, including Texas, Oklahoma, California, and New York.

Schlecte and Out on a Limb bring the dynamic element of modern dance to Waco’s coalescing arts scene. According to their website, “OOLD is passionate about investigating new ways of thinking about movement and dance-making, without abandoning the rich traditions of formal dance. We believe that the creative mind and body at every age is intuitive and worth sharing with others, therefore, we aspire to redefine the body in motion and propose a new model for dance in the community of Waco and beyond.”  

But how does all that lead to being gobsmacked?

In the winter of 2018 Schlecte discovered and quickly immersed herself in an ancient tool for self-exploration that is enjoying a renaissance in recent years — the Enneagram.  The Enneagram — from the Greek words “ennéa,” meaning “nine” and “grámma,” meaning something “written” – helps us understand the human psyche by mapping and explaining nine interconnected personality types.

Through the healing and journey brought about by studying the Enneagram, Schlecte realized she uses the art of dance to develop understanding, clarity, healing, and as an agent for change. She found she feels strength in this space because it is the thing in her life that is risky and “out on a limb” and somehow that risk balances her other, more safe, way of living. 

In the process of developing Gobsmacked, she began collaborating with dancers, musicians, costume designers, photographers and videographers and very quickly a small dream percolated into the giant vision that you will have the chance to experience on April 6.  

Gobsmacked is about the beauty that lies in the deep, unearthed cervices of our being. It is about finding the people around you who are willing to show you who you are and see who you really are. Finding the unmasked self is scary and sometimes ugly. When we pull off the veil it is easy to feel gobsmacked. 

Brooke and her company have been developing Gobsmacked for the last two years.

What’s the creative process that leads to a “Gobsmacked?”

“My creative process as a choreographer changes with each new project,” says Schlecte. “So many variables influence me: life situation, time, money, how many dancers I have, how the dancers engage in the process, music, or music collaboration, concept, vision, venue, and audience (probably more things). 

“So, I gather what I know about what I have and what my vision is and start there. Improvisation and collaboration with dancers and musicians really help create the pallet of the movement language and from there usually a story unfolds (abstract or not). I try hard to follow the piece without imposing insecurities or judgements and really let the dance live for a while.  We take lots of videos and have many discussions about the piece that is unfolding.”

“From there, it really is all about editing, feedback, refining, and clarifying dynamics that really bring the piece to life.  During the process a lot of context questions get answered: where are we, who are we, what do we see, what are we wearing, what world do we live in, what is our relationship to each other, what are the sounds, and finally how would we name this world (i.e. dance title).”

“In my opinion, modern dance is the dance form that keeps asking questions, keeps evolving, and allows the choreographer and performers to grow and flourish with each new dance process. It is a dance form that has the human experience in mind. We are not just dancers pretending to be dancers. We are people, moving, exploring and understanding a movement language and creating new ideas with it.”

“Modern Dance is a form that has infinite ways of developing when each person interacts in the process. I love how modern dance is never the same, there is never a code to follow, there is less good vs. bad in measuring dance, and more of a life-long process. I believe that no dance is every really finished. There are times that products are presented to the audience, but there are always more places to explore and dig in each piece.”

How to see Gobsmacked…

You can get tickets to Gobsmacked here: Tickets.  You can learn more about Out On A Limb Dance from their website: or Facebook page:  “The show has something for everyone,” says Schlecte, “with food, drinks, dance, theatrical elements and music.  I really try to create an experience that is new and engaging with one that is comfortable in familiar.”

What’s next for Schlecte and Out On a Limb?

“I am completely consumed in Gobsmacked and cannot think about anything else at the moment,” says Schlecte. “And after this show, it will be a process of recovery and reflection. My plans are to not force my next idea or what that concept will be. But, I do know that I want to do something like Gobsmacked again in the future.  Gobsmacked has probably been the most fun creative experience so far and I very much intend doing it again.

This post based on an interview conducted by Ty Hall. Ty Hall lives in Texas, makes up stories, and tries to be good.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email [email protected] for more information.