Marissa Diaz Lights the Way

Marissa Diaz's design work for a production of "I Dream of Chang and Eng" in 2017. (Photo: Paul R. Kennedy; Photo of Diaz in the left corner))

Alumna Marissa Diaz, M.F.A. ‘19, is the recipient of the 2022 Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Training from the University Resident Theatre Association (URTA). Since 2017, Diaz has been an assistant professor of Lighting Design and Technology at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP).

Diaz’s work is focused in light as a form of dynamic play, creative experimentation and multimedia interaction. She lets the combined mediums of dance and drama guide and inform her creative authority in light.

“Instead of the body or the voice, my tool is lights. I draw on colors, textures and angles, and use them to support the current production and its needs,” said Diaz.

Diaz was an undergraduate working on her first production as an assistant stage manager for a dance show when she first recognized light as a creative medium. Watching from the wing, Diaz was struck by how the lights on stage shaded and silhouetted the dancers’ bodies. “It was magical; I wanted to learn more about what the lighting designers were manipulating about the lights, and why,” she said.

While sitting in on her prospective classes, Diaz increasingly believed the Department of Drama’s graduate program in lighting design would support her needs as a young designer. Diaz also cites Professors Lonnie Alcaraz and Jaymi Lee Smith as driving forces in committing to the program.

“I saw how [Alcaraz] talked about light in his classes – how he got students to be excited about it. I knew I needed to learn from a person like that. I also knew that the program offered another perspective and mentor in lighting design: Professor Jaymi Lee Smith. A female mentor active in the field was something I had not yet had.”

A female mentor active in the field was something I had not yet had.

After graduating, Diaz was eager to return to El Paso, Texas – the city that raised her. “I had the opportunity to help my undergraduate mentor in the theater program and am utilizing and sharing what I learned from my time in California with the current students at UTEP.”

Diaz is continuously motivated to set her students up for success – and to see out their creative and professional potential beyond the classroom.

As for long-term, professional pursuits, Diaz looks forward to becoming a better educator and mentor. “I’m excited about other opportunities that come about that allow me to continue designing and honing my skills with light as a medium,” said Diaz.

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CONNECT - Spring 2023

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