Southeast will have musical theater major starting in 2006

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University now officially has the ammunition it needs to create the coveted "triple threat."

Earlier this month the university's board of regents gave the department the go-ahead to implement the musical theater option in the bachelor of fine arts in performing arts. Students pursuing the degree program, which becomes available in fall 2006, with be schooled in dance, acting and music.

"It is truly a unique option and a unique degree program for somebody coming in, because it is going to be a degree that is truly geared toward the triple threat, about 33 percent dance, 33 percent music and 33 percent acting," said department chair Dr. Kenn Stilson.

The musical theater option at other universities typically places an emphasis on one area instead of giving equal training in all three, Stilson said.

The creation of the new options has been bolstered by adding faculty dance positions and bringing in voice coach Judith Farris to assist with musical training. Enhanced cooperation with the music department, which will be responsible for many classes in the new option, has also been key, said Stilson.

The option should help grow the department and bring in higher quality students, along with an increased emphasis on producing musical theater as the completion of the River Campus nears, Stilson said.

In just over three years, the number of majors in the department has grown from 17 majors to about 80 majors this year, Stilson said.

Fred Janzow, university vice provost, said implementing the new option was a high priority for the university as it looks to the future and the River Campus.

"It's a core program and very key to the school of visual and performing arts," Janzow said.

Janzow said one of the university's great accomplishments has been bolstering the theater and dance department without expending extra resources.

Current freshmen in the department will be able to switch to the new option, which consists of 80 credit hours of classwork, but current sophomores and upperclassmen probably won't get to take advantage.

"Some of our juniors and seniors are not upset, but they're a bit jealous," Stilson said. "They're wishing they had this."

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