Trustees Holding Hearing on Theatre Arts

November 7, 2016

The Board of Trustees at Lake Tahoe Community College is holding a public hearing at its Tuesday, November 29 meeting at 6 p.m. dedicated to discussing the college’s struggling Theatre Arts academic program. This item was originally slated for the Board’s Tuesday, November 8 meeting, but the college felt that holding a separate meeting to focus solely on a college recommendation to discontinue the Theatre Arts program was warranted, giving community members more time to understand the college’s rationale for the recommendation and to hear solution-oriented ideas to continue theatrical performances at LTCC moving forward.

After years of shrinking enrollment, LTCC’s Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs and the Dean of Instruction recommended to LTCC’s Academic Senate that the Theatre Arts for-credit program be discontinued. While this would result in academic courses in theatre no longer being offered at LTCC, the college is and will remain committed to moving theatrical productions towards a community-based model that would allow the show to go on. Details about this model will be shared at the November 29 Board meeting.

The Theatre Arts program has been going through LTCC’s Program Vitality Assessment Process, which studies the sustainability of select academic programs and makes recommendations to improve enrollment in those programs. In spring of 2014, this process was initiated for Theatre Arts by then-Vice President of Academic Affairs and Student Services, Dr. Tom Greene.  Due to changes in that process, a PVA analysis officially began in winter of 2015, and a report was presented at the end of that year for the Academic Senate’s consideration.  That process resulted in a number of recommendations for improvement, and required a reconsideration of the program after the first year of the proposed PVA. While some of those recommendations were put in place, they did not result in an improvement in enrollment for Theatre Arts courses, which only saw continued enrollment decline.

As a result, Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Michelle Risdon and Dean of Instruction Michelle Sower recently recommended discontinuing the academic program and pursuing a community theatre model for productions. Dr. Risdon said, “It is clear that students are not attending LTCC to study theater as a primary educational goal in a way that is sustainable.”

If the Board of Trustees recommends dissolving the for-credit Theatre Arts program, LTCC will no longer offer academic courses in History of Musical Theatre, Introduction to Theatre, Acting Styles, Acting for the Camera, and other courses that make up the Theatre Arts credit program. The program offers 21 classes, with only six of its traditional general education courses and eight of its acting/performance courses running successfully over the past five years. According to Dr. Risdon, “This supports our observations that the primary interest in the Theatre Arts program is in the performances and performance-related activities. Students are not enrolling in the broader, non-performance, general education credit courses.”

In the past few weeks, LTCC has heard from a number of passionate and thoughtful community members, including at a recent Academic Senate meeting, regarding the status of the Theatre Arts program. Many of these people have performed in LTCC theatrical productions for years. According to Dr. Risdon, “We agree with all of these statements about the values of the opportunities for individuals to perform in productions, the personal growth that comes from challenging oneself onstage, the community spirit that is created around putting on a show as part of a group, and the centrality of the arts to a well-rounded citizenry. We are committed to maintaining opportunities for all community performers of all ages to participate in productions at the Duke Theatre.”

The college’s popular theatrical productions could continue and perhaps even thrive in a non-academic setting. “LTCC is not recommending closing the theatre,” said Dr. Risdon. “Rather, the hope is to make the Duke Theatre a much more valued community space through partnerships that bring even more of the arts – concerts, film festivals, art installations, dance performances, children’s theatre and more – to our community. We envision a vibrant multi-use performing arts center, and we will continue to serve the performing arts needs of this community in a thoughtful, sustainable, inclusive, and exciting way.”

For more information about the PVA process and LTCC’s Theatre Arts department, please contact LTCC’s Instruction Office at (530) 541-4660 ext. 373.