St. Thomas ends theater program

By Marissa Warden

As the University of St. Thomas terminates their theater program, Macalester’s theater department is examining the importance of the fine arts in a liberal arts education.”What it says to the academic world,” Harry Waters, an assistant professor in Macalester’s Theater and Dance, said of the dissolved program, “is a lack of importance in the fine arts.”

Both Waters and Dan Keyser, chair of the Theater and Dance department expressed remorse over the news, explaining the importance of the fine arts in an educational environment.

“I feel if you want to be a total university,” Keyser said, “you have to commit to everything.”

The St. Thomas Theater department was administered in partnership with the College of St. Catherine; the future of the St. Kate’s department is still being discussed, said Ameilia Kritzer, the chair of the St. Thomas Theater and Dance department.

The decision to end the St. Thomas theater program was made last spring.

“It was a shock to me,” Kritzer said, “and when it was announced to everyone this fall, people were shocked. Theater has always been a small program, but it was doing well in terms of generating revenue and serving its two campuses with cultural events and sending its majors out into work or further study well prepared.”

Waters said he would like to design a forum in the future to discuss the role of fine arts in the community. He suggested that the art festival in the spring would be a good opportunity to reach out to our collegiate partners including the ACTC “as a way of showing the groundswell of interest that’s there.”

“The arts have always been endangered at St. Thomas,” Kritzer said. “For years they have been marginalized and underfunded.

“Now the only program that offers on-campus creative opportunities for students is being discontinued. The student body is concerned. Many do not want to lose the opportunities they have for creative involvement.”

There are currently 11 majors and four theater minors at St. Thomas. Waters said he understands that a low number of majors can be a challenge, but that overall campus participation was high and the department had a positive influence on the community.

“[Macalester] will not play a numbers game,” Keyser said. “The structure of the department shouldn’t be changing.”

The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities program allows St. Thomas students to take theater classes at Macalester, and a few have taken advantage of that opportunity. Currently, there has been no talk of anyone wanting to pursue a theater major through Macalester, but if they wanted to, they would also need to meet Macalester’s graduation requirements.