Theatre department releases new major changes in the curriculum

By Piper Sartison
Elm Staff Writer

The theatre program at Washington College was founded in 1966. Since its founding, the WC theatre program has given its students opportunities to create theatrical productions. 

“Everyone in our department makes incredible contributions every day, and I’m inspired by their passion for their area of expertise, and their infectious joy of teaching and collaborating with our students,” Brendon Fox, department chair and associate professor of theatre, said. “[In] the last year we’ve made some significant and exciting changes.” 

According to Fox, the department has added the following courses for the 2021 academic year: THE-321: advanced directing; THE/DAN 187: theatre dance practicum; assistant direction; and THE/ DAN 287: advanced theatre / dance practicum: assistant.  

Over the years, the theatre program removed DAN-203: dance history; DAN-204: dance history; THE-301: ancient Greece and Rome; and THE-400: elements and production from the curriculum. 

“In the interest of creating greater access to and equity within our program, the Department of Theatre & Dance is revising its experiential learning requirements to provide more flexibility and breadth,” Fox said. 

According to junior Emma Russell, the decision to remove some of the Theatre major classes and curriculum was made due to recent alumni who spoke out about issues with the courses, specifically THE-400, as it required students to “learn all aspects of theatre” through helping build and set up props, learning how to usher for shows, set up for backstage events, and more.

“I only had one semester of THE-400 when it was in person and it was really stressful,” she said. “It’s a lot of work, and it just felt like the department was using us for free labor.”

  According to the WC website, in order to complete a theatre major, students are required to choose four categories of either performance, movement, design dramaturgy, directing, event management, backstage production, publicity, or leadership.  

  “This new proposal still requires students to engage in a broad array of hands-on activities, but it gives them more choice in how they meet those requirements — on or off campus, paid or volunteer, credited or professional,” Fox said. “By focusing on skills and outcomes — rather than circumstances and context — this new system will allow our students to meet the same learning goals as before, but now with more efficiency and less stress.”  

  According to Fox, the theatre program is currently planning a variety of performances. These productions will include a play written by an alumna, a Shakespeare production, a “contemporary biting satire,” as well as a “showcase of phenomenal choreographers and dancers.” 

  Following COVID-19 protocols, the theatre program is in constant communication with Health Services and will follow the required guidelines to ensure a safe environment for the crew and audience.  

  “As we think about performances this year, we will put those guidelines first and foremost for both performers, backstage crew, and the audience,” Fox said. 

For further analysis of theatre major requirements, students are encouraged to contact Fox or check the theatre major checklist, which is available on the department’s website. 

According to the WC website, the theatre program offers courses in design, acting, technical production, and theatre history. Students are encouraged to showcase final presentations in dance, audio play, virtual realms, plays, and more.  There are approximately eight performances every academic year. Each production gives any student an opportunity to participate, regardless of their major. The majority of the showings are directed or produced by seniors majoring in theatre.

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