By Glowacki, Dave | Stage Directions, June 2008 | Go to article overview
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Glowacki, Dave, Stage Directions

Oberlin College leverages its strength in all arts for theatre students.

Oberlin College, an ivy-covered institution with a long and distinguished history of providing a quality liberal arts education, is comprised of a College of Arts and Sciences and a Conservatory of Music sharing a 440-acre campus. It has a student enrollment of just less than 3,000 and an average student-to-faculty ratio of 11:1. Its innovative Theatre and Dance program regularly collaborates with the Conservatory of Music and other departments of the college, strongly supports student playwrights and directors, annually produces approximately 40 theatrical and dance events in a variety of performance venues, and is one pillar of a thriving local arts community.

The mainstage facility for Oberlin is Hall Auditorium, a 500-seat venue where they produce three faculty-directed theatrical productions each year. Hall is also where the Conservatory of Music stages their fall and spring operas. A black box space called the Little Theater is in the Hall Annex, which plays host to up to nine student-directed productions annually, as well as a ÉÏ-Minute Play Festival and a One-Act Play Festival. Warner Center is home to department offices, and contains a former gymnasium converted into a dance studio.

"Lots of hardwood floor, lots of glass windows, and we can seat up to 200 for performances there," says Paul Moser, chair of the department for the past eight years and member of the faculty for 18. 'There are also a number of less-formal spaces around campus that are used by extracurricular groups that stage upwards of 20 productions annually."

Oberlin is also in the preliminary stages of planning a new state-of-the-art arts complex that will be as "green" as possible - Oberlin was recently ranked number one among green schools by the Sierra Club, and has ranked in the top 10 of green schools in an EPA report.

Collaboration on Campus

Oberlin is well known for its Conservatory of Music program, and its Theater and Dance department collaborates often with the musicians and artists in the Conservatory program, as well as other performing arts disciplines at the college, including the Cinema Studies program, the department of art and the Dramatic Literature/Playwriting program within the English department. The connection to the Conservatory of Music gives performance students opportunities for vocal coaching and singing instruction, and its dance department offers extensive classes in physical movement study and training. Overall, the campus has a strong creative flair, as evidenced by the fact that last year 39 percent of the graduating class majored in the arts. There is a real sense that the college is an arts community, with a vibrant mixture of ideas and different disciplines working together.

With such a strong focus on the arts, the theatre program has been able to attract good students and develop a challenging program for them.

"We believe we have developed an exceptional acting curriculum," says Moser, "which has the best aspects of a highly selective preprofessional conservatory program, while maintaining the best aspects of a B.A. program within a liberal arts structure."

Thanks to large number of productions faculty encourage students to experience all aspects of theatre, including acting, the technical disciplines and directing.

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