On March 30, 2023 students at North Central University received an email from Academic Affairs at NCU. It said the Theatre major and minor will no longer be offered at the beginning of the Fall 2023 semester. They continued that it was due to low enrollment into the program, and could not be sustained as it was. This email was the first time any student, including Theatre students, knew this was happening. Professor Wayne Matthews, Director of Theatre also didn’t know. It was a shocking blow to Professor Matthews and the students involved in Theatre.
The Senior Leadership Team and Board of Regents had to evaluate the budget for Theatre, along with enrollment numbers. This evaluation led to the determination that the College of Fine Arts, Theatre program had to be cut.
I asked the Director of Theatre, Professor Wayne Matthews how he felt about this decision. He said, “I love theatre for a number of reasons. It feels like a blow when it was something you poured your life into and in one swoop it’s gone. It’s hard for me how important I think theatre is. The arts are one of the best ways to communicate too and reach the culture we live in. Theatre is a viable tool, not just entertainment, and fun. The reason I do it is because it has something important to say that will impact people. My hope was that NCU would be on the cutting edge of seeing theatre as a viable tool of ministry and pursue partnering it with forms of ministry.”
Senior Theatre Major, Bianca White spoke on behalf of other Theatre students by saying, “We are not doing too well. Theatre is a way of life, it’s our heart and so having the major taken away is heartbreaking. We continuously remind each other that we students are the heart and life of the theatre department. So our family is being taken away in name only…not in heart and soul. Majors and minors alike are struggling but we also continuously uplift and encourage each other through this all!”
The decision to cut the Theatre major was made so fast that students and Matthews had no time to do anything about it. Matthews made it clear that this could have been prevented and that, if alumni had known, they would have helped a lot. White echoed Matthews, “If the students in the Theatre program were made aware of this ahead of time you can bet your bottom we would have done something to help! The theatre department here at NCU is a family and from what I know that’s how it’s been for many years even before I transferred in spring 2022. I have no doubt that theatre alumni and current students alike would have rallied around and done something. Though I understand the lack of enrollment and funding, I do believe that something could have helped turn this around.”
Theatre will never be the same at NCU and the chances of it coming back fully is slim, however, there are ways to increase those chances or at least keep Theatre alive in small ways at NCU. Improv nights, acting ensembles, productions, and promoting night outs to local theatres are all ways in which theatre can continue to be a staple on our campus. In the meantime, all students can help right now by enrolling in Theatre classes next semester, coming to the shows, posting about the shows, trying out for auditions, ushering for shows, and just supporting Theatre when things are happening.
Another thing to note, is that there are still a few theatre classes that will be offered for the Fall 2023 semester if students enroll in the class. The lucky number is at least 10 students taking the class. These will be base-level theatre classes that are open to any student! Currently, only a few students are enrolled in the classes so if you are at all interested in Theatre, please enroll!
I asked White what are some things she will miss about Theatre and she said, “One of the things is the consistent community that it created. We did rehearsals often 4 days a week for quite a few hours and then we also had classes together. Another thing I will miss is the unique perspective that theatre has to bring though I hope it continues even if it’s a smaller scale. Theatre is a way to see and even experience different ways of life and different opinions and thoughts. It’s a healthy way for humans to understand each other in a new or fuller way.”
Theatre at NCU is a family. There is a hole that will be missing at NCU for a long time. If you know a friend who is a part of Theatre in any way, ask them about this, and be encouraging. They need our love and support right now!