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Proposed Theater Concentration Would Draw on Existing Courses

By Caroline C. Hunsicker and Daphne C. Thompson, Crimson Staff Writers

A proposed concentration in Theater, Dance, and Media would draw heavily from existing resources, using current teaching staff and curricula from across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and outside groups.

Since there currently exists a Standing Committee on Dramatic Arts and a secondary field in Dramatic Arts, the architects of the new concentration will not have to build up a course list from scratch.

A document proposing the concentration, to be presented to the Faculty at their monthly meeting on Tuesday, emphasizes “the feasibility of the proposed concentration,” and includes a compilation of courses offered by or cross-registered with the Standing Committee on Dramatic Arts over the past seven years.

According to assistant professor of English Derek Miller, the "course offerings in Theater, Dance, and Media next year after the concentration starts, assuming it gets approved, will not look significantly different than how they’ve looked over the past two years, except you will now be able to concentrate in it.”

“We’ve long been aware of the wide array of courses offered in this area in all kinds of departments,” he added.

The proposal document states the intent to establish cross-departmental relationships with several FAS departments, including English, Music, and History of Art and Architecture, as well as the Graduate School of Design.

“It's going to be getting everyone here working in dramatics now brought together under a firmer home base, plus new hires,” said Diana Sorensen, dean of the Arts and Humanities Division.

The new concentration will be careful to avoid being designated a conservatory, Sorensen said. While students would be required to participate in department productions, theater labs, and technical training modules, in-classroom courses would maintain a more traditional learning environment.

“[The concentration] integrates the academic study of theater, the history of theater, and theater as a genre with hands on production,” Sorensen said. “It brings the two together and that means that it’s still part of the liberal arts, but it puts the production and the acting and the staging in deep dialogue with learning about theater the way you would learn about the novel or the lyric.”

The concentration plans to have a semesterly or yearly culminating performances created, directed, and performed largely by Theater, Dance, and Media concentrators, according to English professor Martin Puchner, the concentration’s chief architect. He added that many other classes would incorporate smaller performance aspects in their final projects or daily class meetings, but will not require a main stage.

For performances, the concentration would likely utilize existing spaces, offered by the American Repertory Theater, as well as the organizational structures of on-campus theater groups like the Harvard Radcliffe Dramatic Club, according to the proposal.

“My students have been very enthusiastic,” Ryan S. McKittrick '98, director of artistic Programs/dramaturg at the American Repertory Theater, wrote in an emailed statement. “The A.R.T. has shared the Loeb Drama Center spaces with undergraduates for more than 25 years and will continue to do so as the concentration develops.”

The potential marriage of previously divorced academic and extracurricular offerings in theater offers great promise, according to Sorensen.

“We think one of the great aspects of the concentration is that there will be a real grounding so there can be greater integration, and the extracurricular and the curricular can come into better conversations,” Sorensen said. “The details have to be sorted out, but the idea is to be inclusive.”

—Staff writer Caroline C. Hunsicker can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cchunsicker.

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

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