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Lake Tahoe Community College discusses theatre program’s future

Autumn Whitney
awhitney@tahoedailytribune.com
Due to declining enrollment in recent years, the future of LTCC's Theatre Arts department is in question.
Courtesy / Susan Boulanger |

The future of Lake Tahoe Community College’s Theatre Arts department is in question. While the program has been at the college since its establishment 40 years ago, enrollment has steadily dropped over the past few years. In 2014, the school began the process of putting the theatre program through a two-year Program Vitality Assessment (PVA) to evaluate whether or not the program should be discontinued. Now, the time draws near for the LTCC Board of Trustees to make a decision.

What does discontinuing mean?

The portion of the program administration is looking at removing is the for-credit, academic side of theatre at LTCC. If the Board of Trustees decides to discontinue the program, the current progression is for the 21 classes offered in the theatre arts department — including history of musical theatre, introduction to theatre, acting styles and more — to no longer be offered. Regardless of the outcome, administration intends to pursue a different model for continuing to put on productions.

“We’re seeing two things: there’s a set of educational courses, and there’s the performances. It’s not as black and white because the courses are tied to the productions. It’s not as clear as saying we have education and production.

“The academic program is not sustaining itself. It’s not serving students to the level we want it to, and that’s nobody’s fault,” LTCC interim vice president of academic affairs Dr. Michelle Risdon said at the Friday, Nov. 4, Academic Senate meeting.

Academic Senate

At the meeting, Risdon and the dean of instruction recommended the Academic Senate — comprised of faculty representatives — discontinue the Theatre Arts department. This was the first reading of the proposal for the Academic Senate, who at a future date will bring their own recommendation to the college’s Board of Trustees after discussing the topic with their respective constituents.

“Last year, as part of the process, the program went back to the Academic Senate and the college basically said that we’re going to review the program in ’15-’16 and take a serious look at whether we should continue the program or not.

“During fall this year, based on enrollment this year and last year, the vice president of academic affairs is making a recommendation to the Academic Senate that the college discontinue the credit program — that means classes associated with the theatre — and consider creating a community theatre model here at the college for doing plays and productions,” LTCC president Dr. Kindred Murillo said.

Community and staff members expressed concern over the effects of canceling the theatre department at the senate meeting, including a possible lack of theatre as a whole and a timeline too short to produce effects such as increased enrollment. Some were also concerned that cutting the theatre department would eventually lead to cutting music and fine arts in the future.

“Our concern is that if the college cuts its whole theatre program, we’ll lose the opportunity to be in performances, to see those performances, or just to take community interest classes like improv or acting classes,” said Karen Fink, who has taken theatre classes at LTCC and has been involved with past performances.

She is not alone in expressing concern over the lack of theatre classes.

“What this means for students who are potentially interested in pursuing theatre arts or technical theatre, they would no longer have any opportunity on this campus, and to my knowledge in this town, to do so,” Theatre Arts department director Susan Boulanger said.

Boulanger provided a list of possible solutions to retain the department, including combining it with speech and communications programs, coordinating high school outreach events that would encourage local students to participate, meeting with other community colleges about the success of their theatre programs, teaching online courses, reducing the number of theatre productions and more.

Moving forward

Originally, discussion of the Theatre Arts program was an agenda item for the Board of Trustees’ meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 8. However, after hearing from the community at the Academic Senate meeting on Nov. 4, administration felt an alternate route was necessary, and the item was pulled from the Nov. 8 meeting.

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, LTCC’s Board of Trustees is holding a public hearing at 6 p.m. dedicated to discussing the Theatre Arts academic program. The meeting will devote time to explaining the college’s decision-making for the recommendation, as well as hearing solution-oriented ideas from the community in regards to continuing performances at the college.

If both the Academic Senate and Board of Trustees recommend discontinuing the Theatre Arts program at LTCC, the act would not occur until June 30, 2017.

“If we decide we’re going to discontinue it, we’ll put a plan in place for how we’ll discontinue it, and we will start meeting with community groups. If we decide to discontinue, we are going to make a recommendation to contributing some of the funding of this program to a community theatre model.

“We’ll look at convening groups in the community we think would want to help build a nonprofit community theatre model,” Murillo said.

For additional information about the PVA process and theatre arts department, contact LTCC’s instruction office at 530-541-4660, ext. 373.


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