Letter:Recent cuts to the theatre department are a huge mistake
Published: Thursday, February 20, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014 16:02
I am writing in regards to the cuts made to Loyola’s department of theatre arts and dance, particularly cuts to the compensation and hours of several crucial university employees.
In under a year since graduating, I have secured work in the operations team at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando, one of the largest performing arts centers in the world. I have presented original research — conducted at Loyola with the help of faculty — at a national conference and have held an internship at the premiere African American theatre in the United States.
I could not have accomplished any of these things without the help, guidance, wisdom and encouragement of the whole Loyola faculty and staff.
Loyola’s theatre arts degree is notable for two reasons. First, it is comprehensive — it produces extremely well-rounded students prepared to accept a variety of positions in our field. It is not possible for Loyola’s administrators, or even the students, to predict which of the many skills we acquire will be necessary for our professional success after college.
For example, my current job in operations may be largely office work, but requires me to understand floor plans and dimensions, of which I would have no knowledge without the help of scene design and two semesters of stagecraft.
Secondly, all of the Loyola theatre instructors are actively working in their fields locally, nationally and even abroad. This means that staff is constantly bettering their craft and their knowledge in their respective fields is up-to-date. Furthermore, they have made the sacrifice not to work full time on exciting professional projects in order to educate my generation in the arts, and they should be rewarded for that sacrifice.
Loyola’s theatre instructors instilled in me the idea that theatre is a collaborative artform. Attending production meetings once a week as assistant director, stage manager or assistant dramaturg with faculty and students filling the other roles were some of the best experiences in my time at Loyola. Each student in the room at those meetings had multiple mentors to teach them all the various aspects of lighting, scene, make up and costume design, directing and stage managing.
Without all of those faculty members in the room, it would be impossible for students to learn what they currently do, and to create the caliber of work they currently can. Evidence of this are the extremely impressive senior projects — which all faculty and staff members currently advise — that undergraduates complete in their final two semesters.
Without staff members like Kellie Grengs, the costume director, and Robert Self, the theatre technical cordinator, what future students will have is a theoretical degree. They will be able to learn scene and costume design on paper and lighting design through computer software in classrooms, but will not be taught how to build sets, hang lights, construct costumes or conduct themselves in a manner that is essential for their safety.
Furthermore, due to the nature of our department, the office manager position is crucial. The theatre department office space is the tangible place at the center of satellite offices, theaters, and scene shops where people can gather to collect and trade information, share in camaraderie and pull productions — and educations — together. The office manager helps to keep the department in one piece while professors take on and off their many hats as teachers, mentors, directors, producers and designers.
Cutting the hours and compensation rates of Loyola theatre faculty and staff would be a mistake. What is the point of giving Loyola students a brand new theatre space if they will not have the set pieces — or the education — to fill it?
I look forward to seeing what other solutions the university can find for fixing the budget issue. Thank you for your time.
Lauren Imwold, A’13