Getting to Know our New Student Performing Arts Committee Leader Jax Neal
By Amanda Stezenski
Meet Jackson “Jax” Neal, who has taken on the role of the Wisconsin Union Directorate (WUD) Performing Arts Committee (PAC) director for the 2022-23 season. The UW-Madison students-led WUD PAC plans and promotes events for the Wisconsin Union Theater's stages in collaboration with Wisconsin Union Theater staff. Committee members also have the unique opportunity to work directly with artists throughout the booking process up through the day of a show.
Jax is a First Wave scholar and poet pursuing a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and dance. They are the 2019 Houston Youth Poet Laureate and a National Youth Poet Laureate ambassador.
Jax’s first involvement with WUD PAC began with an artist-in-residence course with the AfroYaqui Music Collective Co-founders Ben Barson and Gizelxanath Rodriquez.
When asked what inspired them to join the team of directors, Jax recalled, “I was only vaguely aware of the organization, but Henry [a previous WUD PAC director] was such a brilliant collaborator in the artistic space. I was excited to work with him from a curatorial perspective. I’m also an artist, myself, and so I wanted to understand how it is [that] an organization decides to invite a performer.”
Jax is more than familiar with life on the stage than behind the scenes.
“As a storyteller, I think the stage is one of the few places where we are allowed to be curious,” Jax said. “We enter with the expectation ofsurprise, and that invites the mind to so many ideas it would otherwise be closed to.”
Jax is excited to bring unexpected performances that challenge audiences. And they have a mission to feature more student artists this season.
“There are incredible student artists creating the future of performance already in spaces beyond the theater,” Jax said. “This year, we’re going to be in dialogue with deeper reaches of the student body, students who are making brave and rambunctious work and working together to make our stage a reflection and a refraction of those lives.”
Moreover, Jax wants to keep the stage open to the desires of community members.
“There has to be a dialogue— I mean a messy and eclectic gathering of the many different people with whom we live to discuss really and truly what is the art that we think we deserve,” they said.
To future WUD PAC members and Wisconsin Union Theater patrons, Jax offers a warm welcome: “It’s an incredible gift and responsibility to be an arbiter of the arts. Historically, people have fought hard for the right to tell their stories in their words. Be brave. We have a duty to each other— to guard and to nourish our stories, our histories, our imaginations for the future. Don’t be afraid of the work it takes to make the world you deserve. We begin to imagine who we are and what we could be in a story. And it is my great wish to imagine with you. “
WUD PAC membership is open to all current UW-Madison students. Wisconsin Union Theater patrons are also welcome to share their programming ideas by emailing email@example.com. To learn more about WUD PAC, students can attend one of its weekly general member meetings or visit our website.
If you would like to support continued student leadership opportunities in the arts, you can do so by purchasing tickets to season events and by donating. Your support helps learning happening behind the scenes and magic happening on our stages.
Photo by Zack Lesmeister