Sandy Robbins, chair of the Department of Theatre, talks with Mary Richards, retired UD professor and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Top drama

Theatre lovers come together to raise awareness and support for dramatic arts

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3:25 p.m., Jan. 29, 2013--Supporters of the dramatic arts at the University of Delaware gathered for a reception prior to the Resident Ensemble Players’ (REP) performance of The Threepenny Opera on Thursday, Jan. 24. The reception, hosted by UD President Patrick Harker, was an evening to celebrate the many accomplishments of UD’s Department of Theatre, as well as to garner continued and increasing support for this vital community resource.

Addressing the gathered crowd, Sandy Robbins, department chair, said, “Theatre at UD, although housed within an academic department, is really a service area of the University – just like the library or our museums, which serve not only all of the students, faculty, and staff in all of the colleges and departments at UD but also, like our beloved athletic program, provide the public with meaningful opportunities for enrichment and entertainment as part of UD’s engagement with its community.” 

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Robbins went on to describe the four interdependent components of UD’s theatre program. The first component is the REP, a professional acting company composed exclusively of alumni of the second component, UD’s graduate conservatory known as the Professional Theatre Training Program (PTTP). REP members boast extensive credits on television, film, Broadway and at many of America’s leading regional theatres. There is good reason for the REP members’ success.

“UD’s graduate program (PTTP) is ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top 10 theatre training programs in America and by The Hollywood Reporter as one of the top 25 training programs in the English speaking world,” said Robbins.

The third and fourth components of UD’s theatre program as described by Robbins are the undergraduate theatre minors and the theatre classes available to all UD undergraduates.

UD’s three theatre minors are among the top five undergraduate minors University-wide. This popularity extends to theatre classes available to all UD students.

The popularity of UD undergraduate theatre courses is due in part to the fact that the classes are taught by members of the REP.  Students are able to learn from successful practitioners of the art form in a setting that allows them to view their teachers in action on stage in REP productions.

The financial cost to sustain a thriving and robust theatre program is great. However, with increased buy-in and support from the surrounding community, it is a commitment that Harker and others in the UD leadership are willing to make.

“UD provides 80 percent of the funding for the program beyond what’s provided by box-office revenue,” said George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This is a significant financial commitment, but we recognize how important a resource it is to the campus and community.  With ticket sales up 80 percent over the troupe’s first year, and last year playing to over 22,000 patrons, it is clear that this program is important to our community.”

Watson continued, “We are committed to sustaining and strengthening our theatre program and we are embarking on a journey to find partners who wish to invest as much into the future of this program as we already do.”

Mary Richards, retired UD professor and former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is one such person. She and her husband attended Thursday’s reception as ardent supporters of UD’s theatre program.

“There are so many positives to this program,” said Richards. “It is an enormous educational resource on which faculty can draw, using the actors and productions as teaching tools to communicate lessons in many disciplines. My husband and I simply treasure the UD theatre program.”

The REP’s production of The Threepenny Opera runs until Feb. 2.  Tickets can be purchased online at the REP website or by calling the REP box office at 302-831-2204, or in person at the Roselle Center for the Arts, 110 Orchard Rd., Newark, Monday through Friday from noon until 5 p.m. 

Individuals interested in providing financial support to the University’s theatre program can contact Nekita Nesmith at nnesmith@udel.edu.

Article by Shannon Pote

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

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