Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notables spring 2022 graduates.
Maxwell Plata’s love of acting began in high school and it continues to this day.
This passion led him to Arizona State University, where he recently earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from the School of Music, Dance, and Theater at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, with honors from Barrett, The Honors College. He was named a Barrett Honors College Outstanding Graduate for his creative work.
“Like many theater majors, I fell in love with theater in high school, where I was a stage manager and a ‘technician,'” he said.
“Theater in high school gave me a home, supportive friends, and a way to express myself. The decision to major in this area was a careful decision that I made only after realizing that I couldn’t couldn’t see myself doing anything else,” said Plata, whose hometown is Surprise, Arizona.
Plata originally planned to continue design and production. “But when I took Introduction to Drama Writing in second grade, my love for writing came back to me,” he said, recalling how in fifth grade he wrote a historical drama. on women during the civil war.
He received numerous scholarships throughout his time at ASU, including the New American University Scholar President’s Award; Special Talent and Scholarships Eirene Peggy Lamb from the School of Music, Dance and Drama; the Nickless Family Charitable Foundation Nickless Family Scholarship; the Stephanie Valdez Memorial Scholarship from Waste Management, Inc. and Scholarship America; the Planning Scholarsip of the ASU Office of Global Education; Hispanic Scholarship Foundation Hispanic Scholarship and Panda Cares Scholarship; the Steve Halper Future Educator Scholarship from the Educational Theater Association; the PFLAG National Investigator Award; the Nita Siegman Scholarship for Barrett Honors College students; and the Surprise Sundancers Organization Surprise Sundancers Scholarship.
As an ASU student, Plata became a prolific playwright, as well as a busy stage manager and producer.
For his main project, he wrote a play called “To Find Them”, a story about gender identity and family trauma in a ghost story inspired by the Mexican legend “La Llorona”. His play “To the Moon” was a semi-finalist for a national award at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival.
Plata co-created two virtual lobbies, one for the New Play Festival and one for Alvaro Saar Rios’ play “Luchadora”.
He was a speaker at this year’s Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas conference, and for the past two years has hosted the Color Cabaret at ASU, a BIPOCBIPOC is an acronym for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. student showcase that raises funds for scholarships for students of color.
He was a summer intern at the Arizona Science Center and an usher at the Herberger Theater in downtown Phoenix. He has also been an active supporter and contributor to Phoenix Pride, one-n-ten, the Binary Theater Company and the Herberger Institute Summer Council. He has volunteered for the Maricopa Elections Department and Phoenix Food Not Bombs.
Plata has predicted a very busy summer. He will travel to Iceland as part of a Barrett Honors College Global Extensive Experiences study abroad program, where he will study Environmental Humanities in Reykjavik.
He will attend the Theater Communications Group’s annual conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in June and the Literary Managers and Dramaturgs of the Americas annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in July, where he will present his work on a recent ASU. theatrical production.
“I will also be working with a group of my most talented and trusted friends to shoot a short film I wrote about a zombie ball, record my seven-episode fictional audio drama as part of a grant artist certificate that I received from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and somewhere in there I will find time to work in theaters in the valley, get a few miscellaneous degrees and apply for graduate programs,” he said.
Plata took time out of his busy schedule to reflect on his time as an undergraduate student at ASU. Here’s what he had to say.
Question: What is a notable experience, story or accomplishment in your career at ASU?
To respond: I am very proud of the work I have done in the Music, Theater and Opera program, where I have worked as a stage manager for the past three and a half years. Many of my fondest memories took place while I was at work there, and it brought me to people who truly changed my life. One experience close to my heart is the annual Color Cabaret, which I helped bring to life in 2021 and 2022. The Color Cabaret features BIPOC student-performers, giving them the space and time to celebrate each other in the backdrop of an entertainment industry that perpetuates great harm to minority groups. Helping to create a safe and joyful room filled with people expressing themselves authentically through their art is truly fulfilling for me.
Q: What did you learn at ASU — in class or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: A theme of my time at ASU has been this idea of authenticity and what being authentic can do for others who witness how you travel the world. When I came to ASU, “authenticity” was kind of a buzzword in creative spaces, and I still didn’t fully grasp the relationship between art, artist, and audience. It wasn’t until I was exposed to plays, performances, movies, novels, etc. strangers that I began to understand the true power of investing yourself fully in your work for others to witness. In the classroom and in the rehearsal room, I experienced the meaning of representing your identities, the power of cultural specificity, and the value of diversity in our media and entertainment. Speaking your mind and speaking your truth on stage is perhaps the most powerful thing you can do in front of an audience. The learning I underwent at ASU realigned my creative mission and goals to be more geared towards true authenticity and being unabashedly myself in my work.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because it gave me opportunities that the other schools I looked at simply didn’t have. Its theater program promised opportunities for hands-on work early in my studies and exposure to a multitude of different styles that smaller programs often cannot provide. ASU’s location in the center of the Phoenix metro area means that I’m never more than a 45-minute drive from the theaters I want to work in or the connections I have around the valley. Plus it’s only a day trip away from beautiful places like Sedona or Bisbee – all the places I loved growing up and loved sharing with my out-of-town friends of State. Arizona is my home, and ASU has promised to help me thrive at home. He kept his promise.
Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson at ASU?
A: I owe a lot to my academic and creative mentors: Dr. Dagmar Van Engen, who teaches at Barrett, and Dr. Karen Jean Martinson and Professor Guillermo Reyes, who teach at the School of (Music, Dance and) Theatre. They all taught me how to manage my time and complete large-scale projects, find my voice in ongoing scholarly or creative conversations, and use the resources at my disposal to achieve my own vision of success. And, perhaps most importantly, they all taught me that I had something important to say and that I had to get out and say it.
Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?
A: My best advice might be to invent. I don’t mean making up inaccurate facts for your essays or lying to your friends. I mean, make up your own rules, your own routines, and your own goals. Create your own version of success and pursue it rather than what others think you should be pursuing. Create a recipe that looks really gross but is actually surprisingly good, and find a reason for your friends to try it. Make up a reason to treat yourself to coffee one day, or stay up late with friends instead of studying, and make up a reason not to regret it later. I guess that’s really just my own version of the clichéd advice to try new things. But I made up my own version of it because I don’t like the baggage and expectations that come with particular advice. So really, when in doubt, just make things up. That’s how you find out what you love, who you are, and isn’t that the point anyway?
Q: Where was your favorite place on campus, whether to study, meet friends or just think about life?
A: My favorite place on campus was definitely the Design Library at Design North. It’s quiet, has a decent view, has its own cafe, and has some great nap chairs. Notable mentions include the Secret Garden, the top of the Life Sciences Building E, and the Courtyard of the Music Building.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Climate change is just one of many issues facing us right now, but it seems to me one of the most pressing – after all, we can’t fight other issues if we kill our planet . Forty million dollars isn’t much in the scheme of things, especially when dealing with such a global issue, but it could go a long way in organizing the local community and launching new initiatives. basic nationals. I believe that empathy and compassion (along with a healthy dose of rage and spite) are key to solving virtually all of our man-made societal problems. Forty million could certainly help activate and organize our already frustrated community to take tangible action against corporate capitalism and other institutions largely responsible for climate change.