Thursday, October 25, 2012

What's Up With College Drama?

College athletic teams have seasons that extend for months and include dozens of opponents.  Players endure or enjoy daily practices for months in exchange for subsidized education and a spotlight that may vault them to a well-paid entry to the professional ranks.  The University of Minnesota men's  basketball team has 31 scheduled games beginning on Nov. 9 and ending on March 9, with the remote possibility of playing in the NCAA championship game on April 8.  Other schools have similar schedules in other sports.

What about drama?  The same U of M theater department is performing a seventeenth century play, "The Rover" a total of ten times between Nov. 1 and Nov. 11.   Northwestern College in Roseville, MN, a small, non-denominational Christian liberal arts school once headed by evangelist Billy Graham, is presenting "The Sideshow", their version of a 1998 Broadway musical on Nov. 1-3.  Three performances.  Just three.  Farther south on Snelling Ave. in St. Paul, the Theater Arts department at Hamline University is putting on the new Broadway adaptation of "Cabaret" six times from Nov. 2-10.  In April, the Augsburg College Theater Arts department in Minneapolis will perform the now almost mandatory "Cabaret" a total of seven times.

Why does a basketball season last five months and a drama season just days?  Are acting, directing and the ancillary skills of theater more easily learned than shooting free throws?  Are productions likely to run out of audience in short order and play  to empty seats?  That doesn't seem to be a problem with small college sports, at least, whose audience is primarily composed of friends and relatives of the athletes.

Ubiquitous television may be a factor in the short runs of college drama productions, folks might be more inclined to nestle at home with a bowl of popcorn in front of the big eye than tottering down to the campus theater to see some live drama and music.  Unfortunately, both the players and the potential audience are losers in the bargain.

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