Alum has hair-raising role on locally filmed movie
Before she decided to enroll at Wayland Baptist University and pursue a teaching career, Rita Cox’s life was full of hairspray, curlers and clippers. Along her life’s journey, that skill as a hairdresser has woven in and out of her life’s events.
Most recently, she tapped into that “former life” as the key hairstylist for “Marfa,” an independent sci-fi movie written and directed by Lockney, Texas, native Andy Stapp, who is also executive producer. The cast and crew just wrapped up three weeks of intense filming in Lockney, Plainview and Marfa for the mystery that involves a group of four friends on a road trip who encounter strange things when they arrive in the remote West Texas town, located near Alpine and known for its mysterious lights phenomenon. Some scenes were filmed at Plainview’s Broadway Brew coffee shop, a popular hangout for Wayland students and owned by 2011 WBU grads Bradley and Allison Sell.
Rita teaches English II at Plainview High but spent eight years in Floydada teaching theater. While at Wayland, she majored in theatre and English, but much preferred her roles backstage doing hair, makeup and costuming for many productions under theatre director Dr. Marti Runnels. All this made Rita a great candidate for a movie hairstylist, and it was a mutual friend who recommended her for the role when Stapp began building his crew in anticipation of the summer shooting.
“I knew he wanted to hire local people as much as he could, so that was exciting,” said Rita, a 2008 graduate who also earned a master’s degree in education in 2010 and one in English in 2014. “He’d never seen my work before, so I was scared that he might hate it. But he ended up loving it all.”
A whole new world
Rita said the experience was very different from doing hair for theatre, where she’d set a style and send the actors on their way for the performances. In filming, she had to work very closely with the makeup and wardrobe folks and the nine main actors to ensure their hair stayed the same throughout the 12-hour shooting days.
“I was very involved in the process,” she recalled. “I had to watch the monitor during all the filming and make sure everything was consistent within a scene and in later scenes. It was so different from the theatre world I was used to.”
Rita said perhaps the biggest surprise was the freedom she was given to create a style for a character based only on a brief description she got from the actor or director. Stapp let her be creative, and that was both fun and scary.
“A lot of times the actors would just drop into my chair and give me a two-second brief on who they were playing, and I had to just jump in there and create,” she said, noting she didn’t have the whole script. “Because I was so focused on the hair, I really wasn’t able to focus on what else was going on.”
Because of that, Rita said she will be able to watch the movie as a normal viewer, not really knowing the plot twists and other insider information. She said Stapp will go into post-production now and hopes to have the movie completed in January. At that point, the film will be shopped around to determine where and how it releases.
Rita said the once-in-a-lifetime experience definitely had some special moments. One was getting to recommend and then work with one of her former students from Floydada who got an extra role in the movie. Another was getting to work alongside seasoned actors like Tracy Perez (“East Los High”) and Tony Todd (“Candyman”) and producer Stelio Savante (“The Sopranos”). She also enjoyed seeing the movie craft up close.
“It was neat to collaborate with people who really knew what they were doing,” she said. “It was a really wholesome, innocent experience too. It was a good script and the actresses were comfortable, we were all comfortable and everyone felt safe and happy there.”
While she’s not ready to hang up her teaching license for the hair studio, Rita admits the experience satisfied a craving for the theatre she missed after spending her first year away from the stage. The creative opportunity was something she will always cherish.
“(Doing hair) is really an art form, and I don’t think people understand how difficult it is to just create something from a picture,” she said. “Sometimes you are working with different hair textures and it really takes some thought and ingenuity. You just have to figure it out and make it work.”
Devotional: Who is on our heart's throne?
“Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” - John 12:23-25 (from the passage 12:1-8, 20-36)
As I read this passage a few years ago, the Lord spoke to me about idols I had lifted up in my heart, but that I needed to be like the grain of wheat that had to fall into the earth and die in order to live, to live truly. Then, that morning in worship one of the songs was Chris Tomlin’s “Give Us Clean Hands.” When we sang the refrain asking that the Lord give us clean hands and a pure heart, and saying that we would tear down our idols, I knew I had to deal with the idols He was showing me had taken His place. I knew I had to take time to deal with my idols. Those idols are me, me, and uh, me.
Picture walking into a temple of another religion. Generally the temple has a large god centered at the front and smaller gods on the side. I have placed myself on that center spot and a few more of me around my heart. Even today, I struggle with the smaller gods—those things I still do in relation to hurts of my past:
1) I still hold my heart closely to protect myself as if our REAL God cannot protect me; 2) I still seek to be heard as if the Lord does not hear my heart’s cries or my needs; 3) I seek to be seen as if others seeing me will validate my worth when He gives me His value; 4) I think I must love myself above all else when God does not expect me to earn His love; 5) I still feel as if I am the only one who cares for my best when His design is best possible plan for my life; SO idol 6) is the arrogance that I know better than the Lord about my life.
However, 1) He designed my plan before He ever created the world! 2) His love is unconditional and His Word tells me so. 3) He is not a dead, deaf idol. He hears my cries and saves my tears in a bottle (Ps 56:8). 4) He is not a blind god, but the God who sees me and my every need. 5) Nothing I or anyone else can do validates me as much as He does! 6) I cannot protect myself as God does. He is the all-powerful Shield and Master who controls my purpose.
So, what am I doing trying to sit on HIS throne? Why do I still hold onto the need to protect myself or seek to be my validator, lover, and planner when God the Father, Creator, and Lord has given me what will honor HIM (2 Pet 1:1-4)? I choose to tear down these idols, grind them to dust, and let the Lord wash them away (Eph 2:14).
Dr. Sharon Gresham is founder and director of Ashes to Crowns Ministries, based in Burleson, Texas, where she speaks, leads retreats and writes. She earned a bachelor's degree at Wayland in 1970 and her doctorate in biblical theology from B.H. Carroll Theological Institute, where she also serves as Resident Fellow. She and husband Benny, also a 1970 graduate, have ministered overseas and in the U.S.
From the History Files
During Wayland's centennial celebration, held August 2008-2009, a figure who had up to that point existed only as a legend came to be larger than life on the campus. A one-and-a-half times lifesize statue of university founder Dr. James H. Wayland was erected in front of the stately Gates Hall administration building on Aug. 21, 2008 to officially kick off the centennial and honor the man who made those 100 years possible.
The statue was an enlarged version of a smaller one done decades earlier by Lubbock sculptor Eddie Dixon and titled "The Book." It features the older Dr. Wayland, complete with three-piece suit and his spectacles, seated on a rock reading the Bible. His trusty doctor's bag is seated on the rock behind him. The sculpture is set in the James and Eva Mayer Wayland Heritage Plaza, which includes a brick short wall framing the piece and two stone benches to serve as a seating place for visitors.
The funding for the bronze piece involved many alumni and donors, with the classes of 1955 and '56 taking it on specifically as a project for completion. Bricks from Matador Hall, the first building to be completed on campus which was removed in the 1990s for safety reasons, serve as the statue's base and make up the surrounding wall.
Alumnus pens life story of ministry, missions work
Dr. Dan Rupp and wife Linda are enjoying retirement in Albuquerque, N.M. But life’s journeys once took them to the jungles of Central and South America while serving as missionaries and ministers.
Those adventures and the lessons learned therein are the subject of a new book Dan has penned chronicling their missionary life. “Missionary Ventures: Watch God Work” was published independently in mid-May and is available on Amazon.com both in paperback or as an e-book.
Dan spent his childhood in Indiana and in El Paso, Texas, before transferring to Wayland for his ministerial education. There, he not only gained his bachelor’s degree in religion in 1967, but he also picked up a bride, meeting Dallas native Linda on the WBU campus. He later earned a Doctor of Ministry degree from Golden Gate Seminary in California.
Following God's call
After serving churches in Texas and Florida, Dan and Linda moved to Colombia, South America to follow God’s call to mission work with the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“The book really relates our missionary experiences in Colombia, and a year in language school in San Jose, Costa Rica,” said Dan. “Whether serving among the throngs of people in Colombian cities, meeting small groups in mountain villages, or driving alone over the remote Colombian mountains, I always marveled at the ways I could see God working.
“Our lives have been enriched by the profound spiritual lessons God taught us as we served among the delightful people to whom he sent my wife Linda and me and our three boys,” he adds. “We hoped others would enjoy reading about some of our experiences and the lessons we learned as we were privileged to partner with God as he actively worked all around, among and within us.”
The majority of the book deals with the Rupp family’s service in Colombia from 1976-86. Three chapters detail the challenge of language school in Costa Rica for 14 months before heading to the country that would become a new home and ministry site for 10 years. It was certainly a trial by fire situation.
“The first week in our assigned Colombian city was marked by student riots that almost trapped me downtown. Driving the lonely foggy mountains brought more excitement than I needed and taught valuable lessons too,” Dan shares. “Learning about cultural distinctives like ‘chicken-head soup’ sometimes proved embarrassing but helped us understand the people better.”
Dan recalls one of his favorite ministries took place at a remote mountain coffee farm with a local pastor, and he remembers well a team missions experience in Colombia’s wild remote Eastern Plains. The family also experienced up close the explosion of the snow-capped Mount Ruiz, which buried the entire town of Armero and killed some 23,000 people.
Most memorable to Dan, however, are the people who entered their lives during those 11 special years in foreign ministry. He specifically recalls a homeless teen; an amazing Christian servant he affectionately called “the Mother Teresa of Manizales;” a small church who built a home for a needy elderly couple; and a teenage girl who almost single-handedly ignited a Christian discipleship movement in a large Colombian city.
After returning to the United States, the Rupps went on mission with the North American Mission Board of the SBC in conjunction with the Baptist Convention of New Mexico in that state. They retired a few years ago from full-time service but continue to minister in their local church. Dan also enjoys fitness, genealogy and writing historical fiction.
The Rupps have three grown sons, three daughters-in-law and six grandchildren, one born on Dan’s birthday.