Biola announces new theatre major

A theatre major has recently been approved and is coming to Biola in fall 2011.

The Biola Curriculum Committee recently approved the long-awaited theatre major under the department of communication studies, which will burst onto the scene in fall 2011.

Freshmen and sophomores will have the ability to switch into the major and take advantage of the new curriculum, but juniors and seniors will not be able to graduate as theatre majors unless they extend their time at Biola, according to the chair of the department of communication studies, Todd Lewis.

“My hope is that we will get off to a strong start and that the people who have been wanting this major will sign up for it now that we have it,” said communications studies professor Kate Brandon. “It will bring recognition on campus to how the arts have grown.”

Theatre major to boast comprehensive curriculum

Currently, students interested in theatre are in the speech and drama emphasis of the communications major. Many of the courses within this field are geared toward public speaking, debate and the performance aspect of drama. The new theatre major will include some of the same courses, but according to Lewis, it will also incorporate a breadth of new classes that touch on every component of theatre. These classes will range from acting and directing to stagecraft and playwriting.

The curriculum chart for the theatre major, to be added to the Biola catalog in 2011, includes classes on theatrical makeup, costume design, theatre criticism, lighting and sound, as well as acting for different audiences such as television, children’s theatre and others. Additionally, classes like dramatic theory and history of cinema will provide students with a well-rounded education of theatre. For example, drama in Christian ministry will teach students how to be Christians in the world of theatre.

The theatre major will also involve the London Theatre Study Tour, which allows students to travel to London for a week, visit the birthplace of Shakespeare, see theatrical venues and attend acting workshops and seminars.

Students and faculty excited about new major

Faculty such as Lewis hope the introduction of the new major will help the theatre program earn a place among other well-established programs. According to Brandon, there is already a strong foundation for the program, as it has been in the works for years. Now, everyone is excited to see what God will do with it, she said.

Faculty are not the only ones excited, several freshmen and sophomore speech and drama students are eager to see what the new major will offer. Freshman Kaitlyn Helsley said the addition of the theatre major is an example of God’s work. Helsley looked into schools specifically for their theatre programs, yet Biola did not have one. Regardless, she said she followed God’s calling, and he paved the way for her, providing financial support through the drama scholarship that only one freshman a year receives. Helsley said she will switch majors next year when the theatre major becomes available.

Other students said they will not be making the switch and decided that communications is still the right route for them.

“I feel like there’s so much you can do with a major in communication,” said freshman Hannah Bushyeager. “Theatre is something that can continue my avocation but not necessarily my vocation.”

How theatre major relates to communication studies

Some students questioned why the theatre major is under the department of communication studies. Lewis said the answer lies in the underlying purpose of theatre. Theatre seeks to do more than entertain; it is meant to communicate. The department is currently striving to do this through its current production of “A Doll’s House,” a strongly communicative play that was extremely controversial at the time of its debut, due to its message about feminism.

“If we can make you laugh, make you cry, but ultimately make you think and even have the opportunity to mull it over and discuss it with other people, then that falls right within the realm of what communications studies is all about,” Lewis said. “The message can come through a speech, a song, even a nonverbal protest, but it can be most effective when it comes through theatre. We want [the audience] to be critical and think.”

Theatre major has previously come and gone at Biola

About ten years ago, a small theatre major existed within the art department. However, it was small and limited and was eventually removed. With the re-emergence of the theatre major within communications, Lewis desired to get the whole community involved by allowing all students, staff and faculty to take part. Theatre is not just for a certain group of people, but for everyone, he said. With this intention in mind, the department hopes to attract people to come out to see its productions.

New auditorium planned

Lewis said a new 250 seat auditorium will establish the theatre program more firmly on campus. According to Lewis, the auditorium will begin simultaneously with the construction of the planned science building, which is most likely to occur after the completion of the Talbot building. The new theatre will serve as the heart of the theatre department and will allow it to expand beyond the limits that the current theatre presents.

Brandon expressed her hopes for the blossoming theatre program. There is a solid foundation that will help the major get off to a good start and lots of room to grow, she said, but no one quite knows how many students will sign up for it. However, since many communicated a desire for such a program before, expectations are hopeful.

“It is exciting and there has been a lot of hard work that has gone into building it, so I hope the community responds with their support in every way,” Brandon said.

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