U.S. theatre professors Scott Walters and Tom Loughlin recently put their heads together to produce a great five-part blog post series on the state of theatre education in America.
One of the arguments that emerges from these posts is the idea that theatre education has lost the ability to critically evaluate its own process – that it has become a system not for making artists, but for creating “replacement parts for the current creaking theatre machine . . . ” Radical change, they argue, is essential for the long-term vitality of the form. And it likely needs to come from outside the system.
Here’s how the posts break down:
Scott Walters on theatre education
Part 2 – Corporate training
Part 3 – Production
Part 4 – Things we do well
Part 5 – Suggestions for improvement
“Most theatre departments justify their production programs as their labs. Like science labs, theatre productions exist for students to put into practice what they learn in the classroom. It is a persuasive argument, but the reality is quite different.
“Departmental productions are focused almost exclusively on putting on a ‘good show,’ not teaching those involved. If in acting class the actors are taught to score their script, directors never ask them to do so for rehearsals; if everyone is taught to research the play’s background, nobody is asked to produce that research during the production process. The casting process is rarely about what the students need to learn, but rather on who can best play the role right now. Oftentimes, actors who play a certain type of role will simply be typecast over the course of their career, and never have the opportunity to stretch their talents. Faculty directors feel that they are being judged on the quality of the final product, not whether those involved furthered their education.”– Scott Walters
On theatre education, Production
Tom Loughlin on theatre education
Part 1 – How we got here
Part 2 – The big lies
Part 3 – But is it art?
Part 4 – Are we doing any good at all?
Part 5 – A subversive activity
“What can you do? I would offer a relatively simple beginning; become an agitator with your own alma mater. And don’t be passive about it; be pro-active. I often get requests from alumni of Fredonia to be invited as guest artists to talk to our students. This is all well and good, but it’s sort of passive. A more active approach would be to dig out a few Hamiltons, pay a visit to the campus, sit down in the place where theatre students gather, and engage them in conversation. Talk to them about what they’re doing, what you’re doing, find out what’s happening, and then let their professors know about what you heard and what your point of view is. You can even do this at colleges in your area. It doesn’t have to be your own university. Find a way to get involved. Offer students some opportunity to become engaged with what you do. They won’t come to you; they’re not trained to. You have to go to them.”– Tom Loughlin
On theatre education, A subversive activity
Lots to read here. And well worth your time should you have a few minutes to think about the future of theatre education. (For further discussion, Walters is hosting a brainstorming session here.)