During a lunch chat I got on the subject of undergrad and graduate performing arts programs. I noted that I have an issue with the systematic subordination of university theatre programs’ undergraduates to its graduate students. For example, the University of Washington’s (Seattle) main-stage shows universally star and feature graduate actors while undergrads are lucky to get a supporting role of significance. The program was finally forced to support an Undergraduate Theatre Society that gave the undergrads a serious chance to perform, but with more limited resources and support.
I don’t fault a university’s emphasis on its graduates. These specialized programs intend to take students to a new, more focused level with their chosen field of study and this research/process requires greater emphasis.
(Whether a given student seeks a true higher purpose through their choice to attend grad school, rather than a merely buying themselves a few years away from facing the music with their artistic career or just buying themselves some extra credibility for the resume, is another matter. Let’s presume for now that placing a premium importance on graduate work is purely justified.)
My greater issue with undergraduate BFA theatre programs is the existence of acting tracks and emphases. Everyone wants to be a star. Never mind too many chiefs and not enough workers. In theatre the problem is that there are far, far too many actors and not nearly enough techs, directors, wrights, stage managers, generative stewards, or well rounded individuals skilled in and capable of fulfilling the many other roles a theatre needs to produce work and shows.