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Proposed Concentration Sparks Anticipation, Questions for Art Lovers

By Melissa C. Rodman, Contributing Writer

Undergraduates involved in the arts on campus expressed excitement on Monday at news that the University plans to create a new concentration in ‘Theater, Dance, and Media,' even as many details about the proposed concentration remained unknown.

Specifically, students said that they are eager to see how the college will bring performing arts to the classroom and build out a curriculum.

Magdalene M. Zier ’16 noted how happy the announcement has made her castmates and friends in the theater community.

“We have a ‘Little Murders’ GroupMe, and all day it’s been blowing up with ‘Yay! A theater concentration!’ So there’s definitely been a positive response overall,” she said.

“I think there are a lot of people coming into college wanting to do creative arts 24/7, and even though there are tremendous opportunities at Harvard, I think that being able to focus on it completely academically as well gives people the chance to really fully engross themselves,” Zier added.

Although many students have explored theater and dance through extracurricular activities, some said that they hope the concentration will give the field more credibility and will create more arts-related programs on campus.

“It’s a very academic thing, theater is,” Garrett C. Allen ’16 said, emphasizing the limited number of arts-related courses currently available and the opportunities for foundational work this concentration would offer.

Classes focusing on history, techniques, and design, as well as the future of the arts with respect to media, will help interested students follow a more structured path like pre-med or pre-law students, Allen said.

“There’s a tendency to push away from the arts because people don’t think it’s legitimate or using what you came here for,” he said. “People don’t understand my path and my passion, and I think that bringing more arts to campus—in not just an extracurricular way—will allow people outside of theater to understand what theater is.”

Mark J. Mauriello ’15, who is active in the campus theater community, said that the new department will emphasize the value of theater as a curricular pursuit rather than as merely an elective.

“While I certainly think there’s so much to gain from that [extracurricular experience]...I think it’s important to consider [the arts] with as much value as you would consider medicine or another field that’s more traditionally thought of in terms of education,” Mauriello said.

In addition to feeling excited about the proposed concentration, students interviewed on Monday had questions regarding how it will take shape. David A. Sheynberg ’16, for example, wondered how faculty will build curricula, how visiting artists will be incorporated, and how the college will repurpose classes from Visual and Environmental Studies, English, and other departments with similar requirements.

“I hope that it will just bring everyone closer together and give people more opportunities to get to know the amazing, amazing staff that are here—staff and students alike,” Sheynberg said.

The concentration, which if approved would begin enrolling undergraduates in fall 2015, is the product of a $5 million seed fund from University President Drew G. Faust.

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Harvard Likely To Offer Concentration in ‘Theater, Dance, and Media’