We'll be honest, we've never written an article like this before. While we release annual rankings of who we feel offers the best theatre programs in the country, doing a list of the opposite just seems like an opening for all kinds of trouble.
We can debate over the quality of facilities, expereince of faculty, or show selections, however, when reading an article in the news the other day, we realized the perfect way to determine what schools to avoid if you want to major in theatre: The ones that won't value you.
Every single year, there is a college theatre program facing drastic cuts in funding, staff, and resources. Every single year, college administrations make these cuts. Every single year, an incoming group of Freshmen has no idea they're walking into a theatre program that isn't truly valued by their school. There is a fine line between the schools that decide that the performing arts are an appropriate area to cut and those who would never dare.
So what we've done is made a list of schools you should avoid for the foreseeable future if you want to major in theatre due to drastic cuts to their programs.
Stony Brook University, SUNY - Stony Brook, NY
In September, it was reported that the flagship SUNY school was making drastic cuts to their Humanties department to close a $1.5 million budget gap. Some of the cuts included "suspending undergraduate majors in comparative literature, cinema and cultural studies, and theater arts." It has also been reported that two faculty members have been told their contracts for the following academic year are not going to be renewed.
According to InsideHigherEd.com, "Edward Feldman, a clinical associate professor of behavioral medicine and chair of the University Senate, said of the mood on campus, “The faculty are upset, and I understand why they’re upset.” At the meeting, he said, “several faculty made the point that we’re not a technical school -- we are a major university and we have an obligation to provide a high level of education across the board.”
Washington State University - Pullman, WA
In October, according to news outlets, "Washington State University president Kirk Schulz announced massive budget cuts in a letter to students and faculty. He instructed every department to "reduce its spending by 2.5 percent," and promised to "eliminate and restructure some positions" in Performing Arts, Student Affairs, academic colleges, Athletics, and Finance and Administration, all in effort to eventually eliminate the university's $30 million deficit.
Schulz also specifically cited the Performing Arts program as a drain on the school's reserve fund, saying that it has "contributed significantly to the cultural richness of our community" but that its $1.6 million price tag, which was the cost to run the program for seven years, is too high.
WSU shuttered its theater department in 2008, but in an effort to maintain a continued presence of theater at WSU, former president Elson Floyd established the university's current Performing Arts program in 2011. Two student clubs, STAGE and Nuthouse Improv Comedy, are the lifeblood of the theater scene on campus and in Pullman in general. They work out of a 400-seat proscenium called Jones Theater and a 144-seat blackbox called the Wadleigh Theatre. Professors Benjamin Gonzales and Mary Trotter and two other administrators oversee the program. The professors' contracts won't be renewed after the theater's final show in April."
Eastern Nazarene College - Quincy, MA
According to local news, last January it was announced that "Eastern Nazarene College was getting rid of its English, music and theater major programs.
The memo stated that this change comes following a two-year planning process the school’s undertaken “aimed at identifying and strengthening our core academic programs.” The college said that the goal is to remain committed to its mission as a Christian college committed to social justice, keeping resources to the higher-demand majors. These changes resulted in four faculty members losing their jobs at the end of the 2017-18 academic year."
Mount Mercy University - Cedar Rapids, IA
According to a report in The Gazette, last month, "Mount Mercy University has decided to suspend its co-curricular drama program for a year, canceling this season’s productions." They go on to say that this news was delivered despite their production of "The Odd Couple" having already been cast.
University of Texas at Austin - Austin, TX
Last month it was reported that "UT Austin’s upcoming production of the musical The Drowsy Chaperone will be the last musical on campus featuring students from the Musical Theater Training Program. The program will end this spring as the last group of students in the program graduates.
Brant Pope, chair of UT’s Department of Theater and Dance, explained that once this program ends, musicals will no longer happen every year at UT. They will likely happen every other year instead.
During the cuts, the department also eliminated its Masters of Fine Arts in Acting program, which drew in around 15 students per year. However, UT will continue to build its Bachelor’s program in Acting."
While a swell of incoming students into some of these programs would probably change the outcomes for some of these schools, the fact that these programs are so under-valued by their institutions is a major red-flag to stay away. Given the amount of colleges in this country that do appreciate and fund the arts, your time, money and effort will be better spent elsewhere. If these schools don't like the fact that they're on this list, then they shouldn't have made cuts to their performing arts programs.
Photo: Oscar Brockett Theatre, UT- Austin