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Curtain Rises on 'Theater, Dance, and Media' Concentration

As "Theater, Dance and Media" held its first classes ever this week, some students are already starting to show interest in Harvard’s newest concentration.

The program seeks to draw its inaugural class of concentrators later this fall with an official launch on Oct. 1.

Martin Puchner, the English and drama professor who led the effort to create the concentration and is now the program’s chair, said the fall offerings unite the academic study of dramatic literature with practical experience.

Forum on the Future of Theater at Harvard
Chair of the Committee on Dramatics Prof. Martin Puchner, left, and graduate students Tarryn Li-min Chun, center, and Elizabeth M. Phillips, right, attended an open forum on the future of theater at Harvard in April.

Some of the courses were previously offered in other departments, such as English, while others, such as a course in acting and directing taught by a visiting professor from the Yale School of Drama, are entirely new. Thirteen "Theater, Dance, and Media" courses are currently listed for fall 2015 on the course catalog on the my.harvard portal.

Although the program’s faculty intend to accept their first concentrators from the Class of 2018, a small number of juniors who have already completed substantial study of theater have received preliminary approval to join.

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“Really, the program is designed to welcome our first class of sophomores this year, but we understand that there were a few students who so much wanted to do this, who have been doing this for so long, that telling them, ‘Sorry, you were one year too late,’ seemed cruel and unusual,” Puchner said. “So we are working with a few juniors on allowing them to transfer in.”

Aislinn E. Brophy ’17, an English concentrator who intends to transfer, is one of two juniors currently enrolled in the "Theater, Dance, and Media" junior tutorial.

“I actually always really wanted to study theater in college,” she said. “When the announcement came out about 'Theater, Dance, and Media,' I initially heard that I wouldn’t be able to do it and found that very frustrating.”

Matthew H. Munroe ’17, who hopes to pursue the new concentration jointly with History and Literature, is also enrolled in the tutorial, whose syllabus he and Brophy will help design based on their interests.

“I’ve been involved in theater since elementary school,” he said. “By the middle of my freshman year, I was thinking seriously about doing a special concentration in theater, because that was where my passion was and what I wanted to do after college.”

For his part, Puchner said the program will continue to adapt to the needs and goals of its students as it enters its first year.

“We will tweak it and change it as we get feedback from students who are actually part of this,” he said. “As students, I imagine that it would be exciting to be part of a new program and to actually help shape it.”

He added that he sees the program’s adaptability as one of its strengths.

“Maybe you’ve been on stage a lot during high school, and you want to continue to develop and professionalize that. Maybe you come from more of the scholarly side, or maybe you come through dance,” he said. “There are just so many ways of entering the program, and the program is designed with that flexibility in mind.”

The new concentration was approved unanimously by a vote of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in April after Harvard received a donation to fund it.

—Staff writer Elizabeth C. Keto can be reached at elizabeth.keto@thecrimson.com.

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