Theater major

Visual and Performing Arts Department Offers New Theater Major

March 16, 2021
By: Andrea Binnick

Students will soon be able to major in theater through the Department of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA). The new Bachelor of Arts in Theater will provide interdisciplinary and specialized artistic education that prepares students for professional lives in the arts.

The major will immerse students in a 39-credit program of study that includes an extensive variety of theater courses, performances, and other hands-on, real-world production experience.

“We are pleased that our strength in theater is more fully expressed as a major our students can consider,” says Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Lois A. Wims, Ph.D.

As part of the new major’s track, 25 of the 39 credits will come from required courses in acting, design, technology, and dramaturgy. Those studies will be in addition to required work on productions and a senior thesis project. The additional 15 credits will be in the form of electives, which include Theater for Young Audiences, Stage Combat, Directing and advanced courses in acting and design.

Productions by the Worcester State theater program have grown over the past 15 years to include two   faculty-led performances and one student-directed and designed performance each year. Student-directed productions are run through “Almost Off Book,” the student theater club, which provides students with the opportunity to make real-world decisions in play selection, casting, rehearsing, designing, and mounting. Students also receive a production budget and support from mentors such as theater faculty, who offer a lab-like learning experience for all theater performances and courses. On campus, Worcester State offers the Fuller Theater stage, costume and scene shops, and back stage lighting and sound design opportunities.

Academic productions feature diverse styles that range from comedy to drama to tragedy, providing students with a variety of performance experiences. Two of Worcester State’s recent Shakespearean plays, “Julius Caesar” and “Romeo and Juliet,” met requirements of local high school English frameworks and drew sold-out audiences. Lynn Nottage’s “Intimate Apparel,” Moliere’s “Tartuffe,” and Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town” are just a few more examples of the program’s most popular academic productions over the years.

“The creation of a Bachelor of Arts in Theater is an exciting reflection of our students’ desire to focus on discipline-specific tracks and capstones that prepare them for their professional careers in the arts,” says Visual and Performing Arts Chair and Theater Professor Adam Zahler. “We look forward to continuing our commitment to providing an exceptional variety of theater courses and real-world experiences through our diverse performances. We’re proud of initiatives in inclusive, conscious casting, and partnerships with groups on and off campus that help support our students and our community members in making their voices heard through the arts.”

As an example, VPA collaborates with the Department of Urban Studies for “CitySpeak,” an initiative that aims to provide others with a channel for expression. In the summers of 2016 and 2017, participants of the CitySpeak initiative worked with Girls, Inc. to help young girls create theater performances out of their experiences in living in and around Worcester. More recently, a new production is being planned for Spring 2021 based on students’ and other local residents’ experiences with the Covid-19 pandemic, with material culled from an archive created by funded research at Worcester State.

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