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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Local theatres set stage for practical experience

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After A&M cut the theater major, students began to look for experience at B-CS theaters like This is Water.

Since the program name-change from Theatre Arts to Performance Studies last year, A&M theater students are finding it more difficult to find opportunities to act and are forced to go elsewhere to gain practical experience.
The Department of Performance Studies produces two productions a year — one show each semester offered through a class. While students are aware of this opportunity, they argue that two productions per year are not enough.
“It’s nice to be able to do more than one or two plays a year,” performance studies sophomore Katie Svatek said. “And it’s nice to work with people who are professionals; you learn so much just by being around them.”
Both current and former students are noticing a significant decline in the opportunities A&M students are being exposed to since the change.
“The theatre program had just hit its stride, [my classmates and I] all felt like we got a lot out of the program,” Founder and artistic director of “This is Water” Theatre Andrew Roblyer, Class of 2011, said.
But according to performance studies junior Nate Krogel, the number of acting opportunities offered solely by the university has dropped from five or six per year to only two.
“I was satisfied until up until the change happened, but I’ve seen a very sharp decline in not only the quantity, but also the quality in the amount of opportunities offered for students,” said Jessica Cooper, theatre arts senior and stage manager at This is Water Theatre.
Due to this decline, “This is Water” and other local theatres alike have worked to provide opportunities specifically for students to gain experience.
“We wanted to try and help give the students there an opportunity to get some practical experience before they go out into the field,” Roblyer said.
The switch to Performance Studies offers a more academic way of looking at and interpreting performance, Krogel said.
“When you work in class, it’s a very analytical aspect of looking at performance, so [working at the theatre] gives you real-world experience,” Krogel said.
Not only has the amount of opportunities declined in the last few years, but also the venue where theater students can perform. Theatre arts senior Chris Haley said while the department used to use the Forum stage in Rudder Theater without charge, they now perform in the Black Box in the Liberal Arts and Humanities Building due to the new required cost of performing in Rudder.
Haley, who is currently acting in a show produced by the Theater Company in Bryan, has received more benefits from his involvement in outside theater companies than just experience, even aside from performing in the larger venue offered by TTC, he said.
“[I’ve learned] the importance of networking and the importance of finding initiative to do stuff on your own,” Haley said.
Cooper, like Haley, agrees that working at a local theatre gives her an opportunity to not only network, but to feel important.
“[Working at the theatre] offers a sense of community and the sense of self-worth,” Cooper said. “I feel like I am valued as an individual artistic professional at this company.”
While students do what they can to make up for the lack of opportunity offered through the school, they do have hopes for the future.
“My hope is that eventually they’ll move back to providing opportunities for students to actually practice their skills,” Roblyer said. “And to do so in a number of ways, not just through a single class each semester.”

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