The impact of administrative support, curriculum, student retention, population and production activity on theatre programs at historically black institutions :a case study perspective
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In the black college and university, the acceptance of academic theatre was slow. Most black colleges and universities were not established until the Civil War, and theatre programs did not appear in these schools until the early 1900s. Howard University, established in 1867, formed the first college dramatic group on a black campus in 1907, some sixty years after the founding of the institution. But after World War I theatre groups in African-American colleges and universities grew rapidly, due in part to a movement known as the Little Theatre Movement and the interjection of plays on African-American life by prominent dramatists in the 1920s and 1930s (Wallace, 1954).
From 27 identified theatre programs in historically black universities. two case studies were conducted to investigate the importance of administrative support, curricula, student population, retention and production activity as factors in the survival of those programs. Observation of site artifacts along with interviews of faculty, students and administrators were sources for examining the four categories. Secondary sources included histories and various studies in educational theatre.
At Institution K, an associate member of NAST, faculty and students viewed the central and departmental administrative support as conscientious and genuine. It offers the BFA degree in six areas of concentration. With 13 faculty and 188 students, the department offers an eclectic and diverse production season of plays. On the other hand Institution P will close its theatre program in the spring of 1997 because of low productivity and high cost. Faculty and students viewed its central administration as uncaring and non-supportive. However, the departmental administration although not governed by a theatre practitioner appeared sympathetic and favorable.
Offering four areas of study, the program has 26 courses in the current curriculum and one full-time faculty person who also serves as the artistic director for the program. The program, however produces two major productions a year. Both institutions have state of the art equipment and facilities for theatre production. The results of the study seemed to indicate that of the four areas involved in the study the most critical was administrative support for theatre programs.
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