Acting track to be removed from major
Towson University is removing the acting track within the theatre major and replacing it with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting as early as fall 2012, according to acting track coordinator and associate professor Steve Satta.
The transformation of the program began eight years ago, Satta said, when the theatre department sought accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Theater (NAST), meaning Towson’s theatre department must maintain a certain level of rigor, diversity and ethics in academics.
At that time, the department had re-evaluated the acting track curriculum, raising the mandatory number of credits within the track from 18 to 30, in addition to the central 28 credits required by all theatre majors.
“NAST looked at that proposal … and said ‘That’s 58 credits, that’s almost 50 percent of the 120 credits needed for the degree.’ They said, ‘Technically, that’s BFA territory,’” Satta said. “They said two things that were very persuasive to us: ‘Technically, the students are earning a BFA, really that should be the degree that they’re getting.’ The other thing that they said was that our course study for a B.A is quite rigorous, more rigorous than students are looking for when they look for a B.A.”
After numerous discussions involving the entire department of theatre arts, the acting track faculty began to seek, and subsequently receive, approval of the proposal from administration within the University, including the University curriculum committee and the University Senate. Satta and several other theatre faculty members will present the curriculum to Maryland Higher Education Commission.
“Their concern is mostly with new programs, that there isn’t a redundancy within the system that will create unhealthy competition with the system,” he said. “So if there were five BFAs in acting within the [University] System, they would say, ‘Why do we need one more?’ But there is only one other BFA in acting in the System at UMBC.”
Students currently enrolled in the acting track will have the option to switch catalogues and fulfill the requirements for the BFA. This change, however, could complicate schedules. Those affected would also need to satisfy the University’s new core curriculum requirements and will not be grandfathered into the previous general education system.
Satta said that he has discussed the prospect of the BFA with his classes and received a positive response.
“Students who are about to graduate are saying ‘I can’t believe I missed it,” he said. “Students who have a couple years to go are very interested in that possibility.”
Several students in the acting track would not comment on the change because they did not have enough knowledge of the program.
The two other tracks of the theatre major, theatre studies, and design and production, will remain unaffected.
The program will require no additional faculty or financial resources, according to Satta. The department devised only one new course: Studio to Stage, which instructs students in proper professional rehearsal protocol and practices.
“We don’t need any additional resources, we’re already teaching everything,” he said.
The acting track has required a screening process for freshmen admissions for four or five years, which will not change with the implementation of the BFA, according to theatre chairwoman Robyn Quick. The department accepts an average of 16 students per year to the acting track program, which focuses on professional development for the commercial marketplace of performance.
“The faculty tries to see which path might be best for which student,” Quick said. “They’re very willing to have a conversation and say, ‘Maybe because they way you’ve presented yourself, and your interest in theatre, maybe you might be happier in theatre studies.’”
The screening process is extensive, Satta said, and requires a preliminary interview, a series of group exercises with other members of the acting track and faculty members that tests improvisational and vocal work and the candidates’ ability to learn new skills, a monologue, and a final interview.