One of the Top Drama Schools in the Country Forced To Cut Budget and Reduce Staff

Brittany Strelluf

Budget cuts are a painful reality for arts educators and a constant one. There isn't a year that goes by where there isn't a school theatre program in danger of losing its funding. 

Right now, the state of Missouri recently cut millions from their state universities. The resulting trickle-down effect has a resulted in the loss hundreds of jobs from the combined four college campuses across the state.

State funding reductions and declining enrollment across the University of Missouri System forced the university last week to shave $101 million from the budgets of its four campuses, resulting in the loss of 474 jobs.

The University of Missouri of Kansas City (UMKC) theatre is one of many departments whose recent cuts left bleeding wounds.

The UMKC Theatre Department is well-known and highly respected. They have an exceptional Master’s program that is strongly connected with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, the leading regional theatre in the Kansas City area. UMKC Theatre provides education and professional training inall areas of performing arts. The Hollywood Reporter recently recognized the department in a list of the  25 Best Drama Schools for an Acting Degree. Ranking it #17 along with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, Juilliard, and the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

Tom Mardikes, UMKC Theatre Chair, was kind enough to give OnStage some details about the recent financial issues.  “UMKC is going through some rough financial times, with a cut from the state causing cuts to budgets.”

In late April UMKC Theatre was required to cut their budget by 16%. An even harder cut was the loss of 4 faculty positions.  “This is a deep, permanent destructive cut.” Mardikes clarified. “We'd have money for faculty but no MFA students for them to teach, or MFA students with no faculty to teach them.”

At a recent rally  in the Spencer Theatre, many highly respected and well-known theatre directors and theatre professors spoke passionately about the crucial importance of the department to the community.

Mardikes sums up the phenomenal impact of the university to Kansas City arts:

“UMKC is Missouri's campus for the performing arts.  It's in the mission and goals of specifically support the performing arts as a priority. Most of the music and dance professional groups in KC have been founded by faculty or alumni of the Conservatory. Same for Theatre; many of the professional theatre companies in KC were founded by the faculty or alumni of UMKC Theatre.”

OnStage will update on this story as it develops.  More information on UMKC’s exceptional program can be found on their website


Brittany Strelluf has a Bachelor's degree in theatre and a Master's degree in education from Avila University in Kansas City. She is theatre and English instructor. She recently served on a Teaching Advisory Board for The Nelson-Adkins Museum of Art. Her stage credits include Trojan Women, Camelot, and I Never Saw Another Butterfly.