Two weeks ago, the Loeb Drama Center announced that a "repertory" company will be formed to implement the celebration of the Marlowe-Shakespeare Quadricentennial. Designed to give students both a literary and a technical education in the theater, the project will combine lectures and discussions with regular rehearsals for four dramatic readings and two full-scale productions. Members of the Faculty Committee on Drama have agreed to discuss the technical and conceptual problems of presenting intellectual content on the stage.
An imaginative program, the project offers students an unusual experience in the theater. But it has a potential beyond that of an extra-curricular activity. Now undergraduates may integrate the intellectual and stylistic content of a play with the actual dramatic production. The vitality and meaning of drama is not two dimensional; an imaginative pedagogical style is only a substitute for a vibrant performance. Combining lectures, reading, and production, the Loeb project will achieve the ideal of a literature course, bringing a play to life in the broadest sense of the word.
Last spring, the Committee on Educational Policy approved new courses in still and motion picture photography, and, in so doing set a precedent; it acknowledged the need for students to learn through participation in the arts. Not only do these courses present a particular artistic technique, but they emphasize the actual use of the technique as well.
At the present time, English P teaches the arts of the theater. However, because of a very limited enrollment, it can not teach the use of these techniques on a very broad scale. Because the new project at the Loeb will teach the art of the theater, will use this art in full scale productions, and will share the basic aims of a literature course, it transcends the usual extra-curricular activity and should, in fact, be considered as a legitimate offering for credit.
There are other reasons for making the Loeb project a course for credit. With professors such as Harry Levin, Reuben Brower, and Alfred Harbage participating in the program, its potential as a course is evident. Also, the time which students would have to sacrifice to maintain the academic phase of the project during rehearsals suggests the need for grades. Finally, a credit course at the Loeb would probably encourage student participation and mitigate the need to turn to professional help.
Last week, Dean Ford announced that the Faculty Committee on Drama would be willing to consider a credit proposal, and William Alfred, professor of English indicated that he was formulating such a plan. Alfred stressed that any course in theater would require a "solid academic core" in order to be a proper course offered by the University Faculty. He also said he would oppose any purely technical courses in directing or staging similar to those given by professional schools of drama.
Alfred touched on several pitfalls which a course in dramatic literature and production must avoid. First, students should not receive credit merely for acting in a play, or the Loeb course would serve as an unwelcome precedent which members of the Glee Club, HRO, or any activity could use to demand credit. Second, dramatic professionalism should be rejected, since it is inconsistent with the tone and structure of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Moreover, a number of practical problems must be solved. For example, how many students can take the course? How many grades be determined.
But, important as these questions are, they should not obscure the basic merit of offering a credit course in dramatic literature and production. This spring, the Marlowe-Shakespeare Quadricentennial project will provide men like Alfred with a chance for experimentation. Hopefully they will find a feasible plan. By offering a combination of lectures and stage work, the Loeb would bridge the unnecessary dichotomy between the dramatic and the academic. The separation of the two aids neither; their conjunction would aid both.