Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Opinion: Jill Dolan on “Why Are Our Theatre Students Unhappy?”

Jill Dolan, who just finished nine years with the UT Department of Theatre and Dance, presented a “manifesto” on this subject at the conference of American Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) in Denver, August, 2008.

An excerpt from the early paragraphs:

What kinds of pressure do we impose [on university students of theatre] by assuming that we’re grooming them for acting careers in professional theatre, instead of encouraging them to refashion their theatre geek-dom into careers as dramaturgs, arts administrators, critics, grant administrators, philanthropists, or maybe most importantly, theatre aficionados who will attend performances regularly and support theatre financially? And most importantly, what structural, cultural, and ideological influences pressure our departments to create this situation?

I just finished a nine-year tenure in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the largest departments in the country. During my stint there, the undergraduate major was reduced from a high of around 450 students to approximately 300, by various assessments meant to admit a stronger, leaner class. I also saw the growth of the MFA program in acting. Moribund when I arrived, thanks to the leadership of nationally acclaimed actor Fran Dorn, the three-year program soon gained a competitive reputation.

But despite what might seem these successes, the students in our undergrad and graduate acting programs never seemed very happy.

The full text with her analysis and comments is in her blog The Feminist Spectator. See the post of August 19 (and the 21 comments) .

The text is available in .pdf from the ATHE site. Click here.

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