We are concerned about Lyric Theatre, the music department’s new performance program. As two theater enthusiasts, we attended its performance of “The Telephone” and “The Old Maid and the Thief.” First off, we would like to say that we thoroughly enjoyed the students’ performances.
However, we are worried about some of the administrative characteristics and intentions of Lyric Theatre. The only words we have on the topic are their own, taken right from the mission statement in the program booklet: “Our showcases will be staged opera, musicals and plays.” It may sound innocent enough, but we are unsure of exactly what they mean. While theirs is the only performance of opera on campus this academic year, there are student-run organizations at the College that provide students opportunities to participate in professionally-directed musicals and plays.
Our primary concern: do the music department and the School of Art, Media and Music intend to replace the positions of All College Theatre and Opera Theatre? These groups already stage numerous performances of plays and musicals during the school year. They allow all students from the campus community to be involved in the production process, whether in performing or producing, and reach far more students than the opera did. Students even decide the organizations’ seasons, having a say in what is performed.
Lyric Theatre’s students are not as involved in the process. Faculty choose the program, and only students enrolled in a particular class are eligible for the experience. Students interested in the production aspects are not given opportunity, as the music department hired a stage manager, costumer and other various technical designers for the performance. In fact, while denying those outside the class, even some enrolled were not permitted to perform – a professional was hired to portray one of the characters. Is it worth taking a class just to watch a professional perform? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for them to choose pieces that better suited the students involved in the class?
Even if they have no intention of taking over the student-run organizations’ positions, they still present them with conflicts. They currently use the studio theater and have plans to extend to the main stage. Scheduling in these locations is difficult as it is, and their presence exacerbates this situation. As a class, Lyric Theatre has priority, and the student groups could be barred from their performance spaces.
Scheduling will be a problem on the individual level as well. For one thing, not all students have room in their course schedules to add this class, denying them the chance to be involved. For those that can work it out, they still have to choose between spending time with Lyric Theatre or with one of the other organizations. They scheduled their opera in the midst of Opera Theatre’s production schedule of “Godspell,” forcing some students to essentially choose between time spent with a class or with a student organization. As we all know, professors have a way of making things mandatory.
We’re not speaking on anyone’s behalf but our own, yet we know that many students are worried and want questions answered. Can non-music majors, like us, be involved in the Lyric Theatre program? If so, why are opportunities not advertised to non-majors? Do they see a place for student-run theater in the College’s future, or do they wish see it phased out?