Two Years In, Mixed Reviews for Theater, Dance, and Media Concentration

Farkas Hall
Farkas Hall is the home of the College’s newest undergraduate concentration, Theater, Dance and Media.
Approximately two years since Harvard debuted a Theater, Dance, and Media concentration, its initial batches of concentrators largely laud the program, though some say it can be difficult to balance its academic and performance components.

Several TDM concentrators say they enjoy the attention and independence that the new concentration of only 21 students provides.

“It’s wonderful being in a small department and getting a lot of individualized attention,” said Julia E. Belanoff ’18, who studied at the National Theater Institute in the fall.

Sam A. Hagen ’18 voiced similar sentiments, and said he finds Harvard invested in the concentration’s growth.

“What is most exciting about TDM is the energy, attention, and resources that are being directed towards continuing to improve it,” Hagen said.

University President Drew G. Faust has repeatedly voiced support for the concentration and the humanities broadly, providing $5 million in “seed funding” from her discretionary fund to start the concentration.

But even with the ample advising resources, students say it can be difficult to balance the theoretical and vocational aspects of the concentration.

Martin Puchner, a Drama and English professor who chairs Theater, Dance and Media, said the concentration looks to integrate “an academic, historical, literary study of theater, dance and media with actual art making and practice,” and added that courses “ask for a balance between those two things.”

Hagen, however, said he found that striking such a balance can be a challenge.

“I think the fundamental question or problem of having a TDM department is how do you incorporate performance work with academic work? That’s been a difficult question to grapple with in many ways, but the department have been very open to trying to address that question,” Hagen said.

Eliza B. Mantz ’18 also said she has had difficulties in beginning to propose a thesis.

“Constantly trying to negotiate with the department about what they want and what they need to see and what you’re passionate about and what you want to create a project on has been the most challenging part of trying to come up with a thesis,” she said. “The department isn’t exactly sure what a TDM thesis looks like.”

Sarah K. Grammar ’18 also said “the Committee is discovering with us what a TDM thesis can be.”

But overall, TDM students say they enjoy the enthusiasm shared by those within the young concentration.

“I’ve had to construct my own path in college. I’ve loved the freedom of a new concentration and how its parameters are flexible,” Belanoff said.

—Staff writer Edith M. Herwitz can be reached at edith.herwitz@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @edith_herwitz.

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