The Return of Theatre and Dance to UAA

The UAA campus completely shut down on March 23rd, 2021. Every class that was able to transition to remote learning did so, with the few that couldn’t either put on hold or continued under heavy restrictions from mandates and continuously growing information on COVID-19 and vaccination availability. It was a relief for many then when, on August 23rd 2021 for most students (although several were able to move into student housing starting on the 19th), the UAA campus reopened. While mask mandates and vaccinations continue to be vital necessities, and several courses remain conducted online, there’s been several aspects of college life that have been able to cautiously return; the Theatre and Dance department being among them. Despite the impending end of Theatre courses due to budget decisions set in motion before the arrival of the pandemic, there are several staff, teachers, and students still devoted to continuing the presence of Theatre in UAA; and they were all able to meet again after months apart on August 26th.

The meeting was attended by a small but hopeful audience, ranging from current Theatre department members to first year students with an interest in the program. After eating some pizza and introducing themselves, Dr. Brian Cook, the department chair, addressed the attendees, introducing them to the upcoming productions planned for this semester and beyond.

“We are down to 10 (Theatre) majors and 5 (Dance) minors,” Dr Cook said, “More than ever, we’re looking for help outside of the department, so it’s nice to see new faces here,”

Upcoming events for this semester include the Climate Change Theatre Action at Kincaid Park, a medley of dance and recited plays focused on addressing global warming and other environmental issues to be held on September 11th in partnership with Sunlight Collaboration, a local dance company. This event will involve alumni and current members of the Theatre and Dance department. For Theatre, students involved in the Directing course will direct 10 minute plays in the first week of December. Before then, and perhaps most intriguing of the discussed programs, there will be a Haunted House held at Harper Studio that will operate from October 29th to the 31st.

There was also discussion of the fate of the coming end of Theatre and Dance courses and their respective major and minor programs; slated to come by next year. However, the Theatre and Dance faculty were quick to encourage participation in the still ongoing Theatre Club, which is still looking for students to fill in President and Treasurer roles. Should there be enough interest, the club could put on its own productions along with the current plans of the main Theatre and Dance department. Dr. Cook also candidly discussed the plans to draft a proposal to continue Theatre and Dance operations on campus despite no longer being able to hold classes, encouraging students to call in or email the board of regents and Chancellor Parnell when the time comes to express the desire to see the program’s continuation.

“If it’s not approved, we will have a celebration to go out in style,” Dr Cook said with some dry humor, “We’re not gonna lie down and just take it, we’ll fight to keep theatre and dance on campus”

The last theatrical production held in UAA’s fine arts building was That Long Damn Dark by Ashley Rose Wellman in February 2020; directed by graduate and Theatre major Kaeli Meno.  Students who want to take part in Theatre productions can contact Dr. Brian Cook and Dr. Jill Crosby for Dance. Students can also volunteer anytime at the Costume and Scene shops, headed by Professor Metzger and Professor Anteau respectively. The hours for the costume shop are from 10 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday; while the Scene Shop is still looking for a new Scene Shop Supervisor. Potential volunteers are encouraged to contact Professor Anteau through email in advance to set up a time. Currently, besides the Haunted House in October, early design work is being done for the UAA Theatre Department’s spring production, Maple and Vine by Jordan Harrison.