Program Evaluation of a University Theater Program
The purpose of the graduate level theater program at Metropolitan University in Manhattan, New York, is to prepare students to make meaningful contributions to the theater industry. This program incorporates a multi-faceted approach to achieve this objective. It has very specific areas of concentration to assist in improving the quality of performances and shows to galvanize the general public to become interested in the theater as it once was prior to the advent of television and other technological advancements. Its areas of concentration in playwriting, dramaturgy, directing and acting all are designed to fulfill this objective. The program also aims to improve marketing strategies and general sponsorship opportunities/skills so that the theatrical movement becomes revitalized — areas of concentration in production and theater management are created to address these pressing needs. The program is also attempting to garner student interest in University wide performances, and offers cross-disciplinary studies and interaction to achieve this objection.
In addition to addressing the pragmatic concepts of finance, management, marketing and promotion that are necessary to for both this particular theater and for the theater industry in general to thrive, there are certain aesthetic principles that are at the core of the purpose of Metropolitan University’s theater program. Students are encouraged to push the boundaries of creativity and to fulfill the true purpose of theater, to which the subsequent quotation alludes. “The best theater in every culture and in all eras has not only reflected its time but also shaped its society and often helped point it toward the future. The Theater Program aims to train theater artists to fulfill that important role in today’s society” (Columbia, No Date). Thus, the aesthetic component of this program is as equally relevant as its practical focus on keeping theater alive and meaningful in today’s society.
Program Process Theory
Like many theater programs, the one considered in the evaluation within this document utilizes a methodology which combines coursework, participation, and pragmatic experience in the surrounding world of theater. Quite simply, the students are educated with the basic foundation of academic theater concepts which pertain to their various areas of focus. From a purely academic perspective, students can choose to pursue academic disciplines with concentrations in dramaturgy, theater management, acting, producing, directing, stage management and playwriting. These seven focus areas require students to engage in onsite education (distance learning is not permitted) in which they will pursue conventional classroom learning while attending lectures not only from a fairly noteworthy staff of theater professionals and educators, but also from guest lecturers such as Bill Murray, Alec Baldwin, and Michael Dukakis, to name a few.
Whereas the first year of this three-year masters program is concentrated on conventional classroom education, the second year focuses largely upon practical experience in a student’s area of specialization. Much like the program at Columbia University,
Coursework is centered on experience — on campus and off, commercial and experimental, both within and beyond a student’s concentration. Collaboration class, offered in the secondâ€¦yearâ€¦brings actors, directors, playwrights, dramaturges and mangers together into creative teams (Columbia University Theater of the Arts, No Date).
The final year of this program is based upon the completion of these projects, which can involve original productions or involvement within professional works. The basic guiding principle of the program is to give students an academic background with which to explore — and expand upon — their options and possibilities for pursuing their craft in the real world. By emphasizing both class work and the practical application of theater concepts in demonstrable formats, this theater program is able to train students to create and promote thought-provoking expression in the world to come.
There appears to be a highly discernible need for the University Theater program studied within this document. In fact, a systemic analysis of various components of this program indicates that there is a multitude of needs that it provides. On the one hand, it offers a tangible means for those who are looking to enter the field of the arts as a thespian, or as a theater manager, playwright, or some sort of production hand to gain valuable experience within this field that they can then apply towards their careers. The many different forms of that experience — from actually acting in works of drama, to interning at various theater production companies around the greater metropolis — encompass as much value as any classroom discussion, homework assignment, or research paper.
Additionally, one of the things this program provides is an outlet for students to harness and hone their creative expression. This program champions the notion of creativity in all of its myriad applications. However, prior to breaking the rules of creativity associated with any expression of the arts, it is necessary for one to first learn them, so one can then manipulate them or eschew them — to artistic effect — as one desires. Moreover, this particular program is able to provide a multidisciplinary approach towards learning various conventions associated with professional theater including aspects of visual arts, writing, and film. As such, this program helps to fulfill a vital form of expression of one of the most socially relevant art forms still left in existence. Students require formal training in this discipline.
The social impact / target of the theater program discussed in this document is as broad as it is wide. Theater plays a crucial role in society, for the simple fact that it is charged with reflecting that society — both how it is and how it should be. There are other mediums that attempt to do this, but they are often hampered by big budgets and commercials. Theater alone is free from such restraints, especially at the collegiate level, and has the power to accurately portray reality and how it should be.
From a practical perspective, then, the target group for this particular theater will be students in all of their myriad forms and varieties. These will include not only undergraduates and graduates, but also alumni and those who have undergone the experience of collegiate life, and of actually examining the surrounding world and extracting meaning from it. This emphasis will be particularly felt in the production of original works. The theater will not purposefully neglect the needs of, say, parents who are sending their students though school, but will rather focus on those in the actual school system who are the most viable means of effecting change.
Creating change is one of the principle social responsibilities of virtually all theaters, particularly of this one. The feeling of catharsis that accompanies tragedies should have a counterpart in every variety of drama produced by this theater and its students. The goal is to move people: first emotionally, and then physically, to create the sort of change required to transform the world from how it really is to how it should be, the sort of world discussed during holidays and birthdays. In short, by targeting students as instruments of change, the social impact of the theater will be engendered by the players having to “scream and cry, murder, run through the streets in agony, if it means some soul will be moved…to actual life understanding of what the world is, and what it ought to be” (Jones, 1966, p. 211).
There are several stakeholders in Metropolitan University’s theater program. Since this program is a part of the aforementioned university, one can successfully propound the notion that everyone involved in the University is a stakeholder. The theater program attracts paying students and is able to generate revenue from their tuition, room and board, so that virtually everyone employed by the university is a stakeholder on some level. Nonetheless, there are those who have a significantly greater stake than others do in this theater program, perhaps none more so that the actual students how partake in it. These are the people who are willing to base a substantial amount of their professional aspirations on the credentials earned from attending this program — therefore, they have the most at stake.
In addition to the students, those with a great deal at stake in this program include the faculty members who educate those students. The former are charged with adequately preparing the latter to propagate the relevancy of theater in the future. In addition to the actual processors and instructors who regularly interact with the students, the University staff who helps to maintain the classrooms and the various locations in which works of drama are both marketed and performed also have a substantial stake in this program — were it no longer existent, the university would have less of a need to employ the amount of staff that it currently has. Another eminent stakeholder in the theater program are those that regularly patronize its works and performances. These include members of the community, alumni, as well as other students who are willing to pay to see theater performed as it should be. Any potential changes in the program would certainly affect their patronage as well as their general edification courtesy of the theater program and its works.
The principle points of the evaluation of Metropolitan University’s Theater Program will show two very distinct, yet equally vital, aspects of this particular program. One will pertain to cost-benefit, which will primarily focus on the boons derived from attending and even graduating from this theater program. The other will focus largely on cost-effectiveness, which will primarily pertain to the efficaciousness of those same students in maximizing the value of this program to its intended audience — other students and other community members. As such, several types of evaluations will be employed to gauge these different facets of the program in ways that are both quantitative and qualitative.
The methodology utilized for the evaluation of the cost-benefits for students enrolling in this program will be two-fold. Upon graduation, students will have to fill out a questionnaire to provide qualitative feedback regarding their opinions of the program. Since they are the ones who attended it and know it best, their input is invaluable in assessing the effectiveness of it. They will fill out five-point Likert scale questionnaires in which they will state their opinions on everything from the quality of the teaching to the fairness and value of the opportunities provided them to work with the surrounding theater community. Additionally, they will cite their job interviews and their employers/performance opportunities (including projected salaries) lined up after their graduation. The cost effectiveness of this program will be measured by evaluating what sort of profit the program is able to make at the end of the year due to its various performances throughout the year. This will provide indisputable quantitative means of seeing how much students learned at the program in terms of issuing quality marketing, promotions, sponsorship, writing, directing and acting skills.
Summary and Recommendation
The evaluation of Metropolitan University’s theater program proved very insightful, and yielded a considerable amount of information about areas that the program can improve in and areas in which it is excelling. Of the latter, it is quite clear that the academic portion of the program is exceptional. Several students indicated in there qualitative evaluations that they were very pleased with the specific coursework for their different distinctions within this field, which include acting, playwriting, stage management, producing, directing, dramaturgy, and theater management. Of particular interest is the rapport that the students had with their professors. Many indicated that the latter were able to make their lesson plans not only interesting and informative, but also fun. Additionally, the vast majority of the students were pleased with the presence of guest lectures. Virtually the only complaint issued by students was that they wished more of the coursework was available online, although a few of them recognized the fact that doing so would not provide the same degree of camaraderie between the students and the professor.
The principle drawback in terms of the evaluation for thee cost-effectiveness of this program relates to the fact that at the point of graduation, many students were not gainfully employed in positions in which they would be able to remunerate the cost of attending this university. This fact is partly attributed to the economy and partly to the transitory nature of theater work. Still, this fact can be increased by bolstering the career opportunity center and providing more internships — particularly for those involved in theater management, producing, stage management and dramaturgy. Cost-effectiveness analysis demonstrated that students were highly effective in obtaining sponsorship and pecuniary measures for their art form, as the yearly programs made a slight profit. Thus, students were able to counteract the cost of their performances by drawing in suitable crowds to offset the costs.
Columbia University. (No date). Theater MFA Program. http://arts.columbia.edu Retrieved from http://arts.columbia.edu/theatre-arts/theatre-arts-mfa-program
Columbia University School of the Arts. (No date). Theater. http://arts.columbia.edu Retrieved from http://arts.columbia.edu/theatre-arts
Jones, L. (1966). Home. New York: William Morrow and Co.
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