February 16, 2011

Theatre Department Considers Restructuring Majors

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After a steep reduction in funding raised concerns about the future direction of the Theatre, Film and Dance department, an internal Curriculum Committee has outlined five potential broad categories, which it calls “rubrics,” to redefine the department’s majors and course offerings.“Instead of working in the three distinct areas, the new model allows for an integration of performance and media,” said Department Chair Prof. Amy Villarejo, theatre, a member of the Curriculum Committee. The new rubrics might replace the current academic structure, which breaks the department into three majors, according to Associate Dean of the Graduate School and chair of the Curriculum Committee Ellen Gainor.“We envision that revised departmental major requirements will be in place for students entering Cornell in Fall 2011,” Gainor stated in an e-mail.According to the Jan. 28 Curriculum Committee report, obtained by The Sun, the committee will also consider renaming the department.“It is likely that the department’s name will change,” Prof. Bruce Levitt, theatre, said. Some possible labels include the “Department of Performance and Media,” he said, but the committee has not yet approved the renaming.If the proposed rubrics are adopted by the department, all classes will have to fulfill one of the five classifications.The classifications outlined by the proposed rubrics are Directing/Choreography, History/Theory/Criticism, Embodied Performance, Design/Digital Technologies and Writing for Media/Performance, according to the report.According to the committee report, “We have also just begun considering the transition to a new major and its requirements.”“We’re not there yet. It’s going to be a long process,” Villajero said.While neither the rubrics nor the class roster has been finalized, some professors within the department identified a broader shift in the department away from practical performance and toward more theoretical instruction.Prof. Kent Goetz, theatre, said the department “will move to being more academic and less experiential” in response to anticipated changes in the course roster.“The combining of those rubrics … reduces the depth in which students can study any one of those three,” Levitt said. The proposed rubric concentrations would have students study a greater variety of performance arts, according to Levitt, yet sacrifice the current major’s specific focus.Goetz noted that there will be a general trend toward “more condensed productions and fewer different configuration majors.” The change will result in the department “having to offer fewer courses,” he said.According to Levitt, “we don’t know how [the curriculum revision] is going to turn out except that clearly there will be fewer classes.” He added that “certain areas of the departments like dance will be more affected in the reduction of courses because they’ve taken a larger percentage of reduction in their faculty.”The committee has a formal deadline at the beginning of March, when the department will need to submit their updated course roster for the 2011-2012 academic year.

Original Author: Jeff Stein