Musical theatre program placed on hiatus

Eleanor Dearman

The musical theatre program in the College of Fine Arts is being put on hiatus because of budget cuts from the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost.

Brant Pope, Department of Theatre and Dance department chair, sent an email to faculty and musical theatre students in November to announce the decision. The program will no longer recruit incoming students, but students currently enrolled will continue in the program until graduation.

Pope said in an email that the cuts are coming from the provost's office because the office requires the department to self-fund merit salary increases for professors. The money to fund these salary increases requires cuts to programs — such as the musical theatre program.

“I think the impact on the musical theatre students will depend on what resources the Department of Theatre and Dance allocates to their program of study over the next three-and-a-half years,” musical theatre lecturer Lyn Koenning said in an email. “Words can't really express the depth of my disappointment.”

The Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost has required the department to cut its budget by $400,000 over the last five years, with $80,000 in cuts this year, according to Pope. These budget reductions had previously resulted in a loss of 25 graduate TA and AI positions, a reduction in faculty positions, and the master's acting and dance programs ending recruitment in 2012, Pope said.

“I am very discouraged and exhausted from these relentless budget reductions and many of my senior faculty have protested these devastating losses we have suffered for the sole purpose of funding merit salary increases,” Pope said in an email.

Like the master's acting and dance programs, the musical theatre program is being put on hiatus, which Pope says is different than removing them. 

“I do not have the power to end or cut or remove or eliminate programs,” Pope said. “Rather, if I cannot fund them because of budget cuts, I put them on hiatus. Hiatus means we do not recruit students into these programs in the present budget circumstances.”

According to Pope, cutting the musical theatre program is negative for the department because it is an increasingly popular form of theater with a variety of career outlets.

“The Music Theatre program was chosen because it is still a young and small program and most importantly because it is an exceptionally expensive program to support,” Pope said.