Although hundreds of undergraduates participate in extracurricular theater every semester, drama continues to occupy a secondary position within Harvard's broad curriculum.
But students and faculty say that drama should not necessarily be considered less important than other academic pursuits.
Students cannot declare a concentration in drama, even though professors from the English department and the American Repertory Theater (ART) offer related courses. A standing committee, rather than a department, controls the academic side of drama at Harvard.
Unlike departments, the Committee on Dramatics does not have the power to appoint its own faculty.
Michael Shinagel, senior lecturer of English and chair of the Committee on Dramatics, says this system has advantages and disadvantages.
"The benefits [are that] instead of getting people who are theorists, these are people who do it professionally," he says. "The liability is that you don't have a tenured, permanent faculty."
The structure of the committee has remained essentially the same since drama courses were first offered for credit in 1980.
"It's too bad Harvard hasn't found some way to make drama more prominent in the curriculum," says Robert Brustein, Professor of English and director of the ART.
The dialogue surrounding drama's place in the Harvard curriculum has been a complex one since 1980. It has weighed faculty and student interests, deep-rooted Harvard traditions and issues of funding and theatrical space.
Almost two decades after the Committee on Dramatics was founded, these issues are still central to the debate surrounding the state of drama at Harvard.
Drama at Harvard falls under the auspices of several different campus organizations, each with their own goals and functions.
The main extracurricular organization is the Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC), with over 700 members.
HRDC manages most of the student theatrical productions during the year. At the beginning of each semester, the organization coordinates common casting--a system through which students can audition in a single week for most of the plays that will go up throughout the semester.
The professional dramatic institution on campus is the ART. It manages the Loeb Drama Center, oversees the student productions on the Loeb mainstage and in the Experimental theater and employs professional actors and directors for ART productions.
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