Still feeling the effects of past budget cuts, Professor Marilouise Michel of the theater department reflected on the continued effects of the dwindling arts programs. Prior to the cuts, there was an autonomous theater program, but now it is consolidated to a theater, music, and art department under one chair.
While all of these subjects are related to arts, their focus is much different, which challenges one chairperson to fill the needs of the department, which she recognizes is happening in many departments across the university.
After the discontinuation of the music program as a major, there are notable struggles that have arisen.
As the person in charge of the musical theater, Michel sites that the lack of musicians available is a huge difficulty that she has to contend with when trying to put on a show. When looking for musicians that aren’t in that major, it is tricky to find willing participants that have the time and dedication to put into music for the theater for nominal payment with such small budgets offered.
One of the modifications that was the most disappointing to Michel and students was the reduction of the summer theater program.
Each summer, students would put on three different shows, one at the university, and the other two at the Sawmill Theater in Cook Forest, Pa. Each show would count as four university credits, with the setup, design, construction and rehearsal the factors that acted as the “lab” for the class, with a possibility of 12 credits for the summer.
These 12 credits are still available each summer, but the program only puts together two shows, both of which are at the university, while none are held at the Sawmill Theater anymore. She said that losing the opportunity to perform at the Sawmill is a great bereavement because, “not only did we build the sets and perform shows, but we also got the experience of touring, where we had to take the whole set down, and put it back together… which is a huge learning experience for people that are going to go into theater.”
Along with the deduction of the off-site theater, the cost of transportation a primary issue, the program only hires one new faculty member for the summer instead of the three that were in the past. Michel doesn’t cite these modifications as necessarily all bad, but just different, changing the experience of the intense program.
Despite having to work and mold with each new change, Michel remained positive, “We’re doing our best to continue to try to give our majors the same tools that they got before, so that they can work when they get out. If it ever comes to where we can’t give them the tools, then we’ll have to reevaluate delivering our majors, but right now, we feel pretty confident that we’re able to deliver the skills and the experiences that the students need to get out of here with a BFA.”