Theater Concentration Courts Potential Concentrators

Now that Harvard’s new Theater, Dance, and Media concentration has received final approval from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, English professor Martin Puchner—who spearheaded the initiative to create the concentration—is turning his efforts to attracting prospective concentrators, including both current students and admitted members of the Class of 2019.

“In the past, the Admissions Office has admitted theater performance-oriented students, but those have tended to go to our competitors,” he said. “I think we are now in a much better position to both capture the students we have admitted in the past, but also to put a finger on the scale a little bit to yield new students in that area.”

According to the Office of Admissions and Financial Aid, 15 percent of admitted students to the Class of 2019 indicated that they intended to concentrate in the humanities, up from 13.6 percent last year. While Puchner has not formally calculated the number of students potentially concentrating in Theater, Dance, and Media, he said that he has heard from “many” current and prospective students who are interested in the concentration.

“We are seeing discussion about the new concentration on the Class of 2019 Facebook group and they are very excited about it,” said Amy A. Lavoie, director of digital communication at the Admissions Office.

One interested student is Eliza B. Mantz ’18, who said she believes the new concentration will enrich her liberal arts experience and help her become a better performer.

“Harvard could now be the perfect place where I could continue my formal education, and also get an incredible arts education,” she said. “The concentration will [make] good artists, people who can appreciate craft from a distance and also do it.”

However, the concentration was not approved in time to host a freshman Advising Fortnight event, frustrating students with the lack of resources currently available.

“I am pretty disappointed about how much information we’ve gotten about it. All I know about it is what I’ve read in the Crimson articles,” said Caro P. Ribeiro ’18, a prospective concentrator.

Puchner said the Theater, Dance, and Media concentration partnered with the Admissions Office and its alumni interviewers to promote Harvard’s humanities resources.

According to admissions officer Bryce J. Gilfillian ’12, the Admissions Office is currently working with the Division of Arts and Humanities to promote Harvard’s humanities resources. Gilfillian said that during this year’s Visitas, prospective students can expect a “Meet, Greet, and Listen” event at the Barker Center Arts Cafe to meet faculty from across the division.

“It will be an amazing moment for students to talk about the concentration, as the new concentration offers an exciting and interdisciplinary look into what the humanities is all about,” he said.

According to Diana Sorensen, dean of arts and humanities, the new concentration is an important piece in a larger campaign to attract humanities concentrators.

“We wanted to make sure we took a step in the direction of Theater, Dance, and Media both because we believe in that field, but also because we’re trying to make Harvard appeal to people with artistic ambitions,” Sorensen said in an interview earlier this year.

Puchner emphasized that the concentration will not be selectively capped or require an audition and that its courses will be made widely available to both concentrators and non-concentrators.

Sorensen said Harvard’s theater concentration will benefit from arriving relatively late to the field, since its organizers have “learned from what works or doesn’t work” at comparable institutions.

The Committee on Dramatic Arts will host an open forum on the pedagogy of theater at Harvard next Wednesday.

—Staff writer Daphne C. Thompson can be reached at daphne.thompson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @daphnectho.

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