Two days ago, faculty from MSUM started getting zoom calls to let them know that their positions were being eliminated to offset a projected massive budget shortfall. In the case of the Theatre department, Craig Ellingson and the rest of the faculty were told that not only were they being cut but that the entire department was slated to be eliminated in 2023. No more theatre at MSUM.
Think about that.
For as long as I have lived in the Metro and well before-hand, the Straw Hat Players has been an absolute staple of summer entertainment. The Hansen and Gaede Theatres have provided more than 50 years of hilarious, heartbreaking, challenging, sentimental, old book and brand new plays and musicals, and for decades, the community took its role in the relationship with the performers, technicians and musicians seriously and played their part as invested audience members who showed up to laugh and cry, to cheer and applaud.
And for more than 50 years, MSUM students, both majors and those who took a casual non-majors acting course, learned some invaluable lessons that have served thousands of graduates brilliantly across every spectrum of the work world.
Sure a theatre degree is about learning blocking and memorizing lines, about building sets and costumes and applying old age makeup, about mastering choreography and melodies, but that’s just the tip of the learning iceberg. It’s actually about so, so much more. And the lessons learned transcend the classroom and the stage and are easily applied to every facet of life. Because again, as with all the arts, it is the process of engaging in, learning about and making art that defines us as human beings.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Please enjoy this conversation from earlier today with fellow MSUM alums Aasne Vigesaa Daniels (94), Doug Kampsen (95), Tom Musgrave (99), Steve Dolan (2000) and Patrick Meehan (97). I loved our joy in reconnecting and in sharing what we learned. It was a true gift to have this conversation.
The arts matter. They simply do. The Theatre department at MSUM matters. And if you have a story to share or want to express the value you have taken from that program, please respectfully reach out to President Anne Blackhurst (firstname.lastname@example.org) and to Vice President for Academic Affairs Aarick Jackson (email@example.com), with a copy to Professor Matt Craig, Faculty Representative for the Union (firstname.lastname@example.org).
If we don’t put up a good fight to save this department, I fear this will be the first tipped domino of what could be a catastrophic cascade of failed arts organizations and programs across our Metro and beyond. Why don’t we treat the arts as the necessary and joyful asset they are and work to save them on the front end so that we don’t have to bemoan them missing on the landscape of communities across the nation and the world when this is over? Will you join us to #supportlocalart?
***A note sent from Patrick, which will make a whole lot of sense if you watch the full conversation:
“You know what else dawned on me as we ended the call…We had a conversation about being asked to help. Dayna asked us last night and we were all on zoom 24 hours later!”
And one more in case you want to keep learning about why theatre matters:
I was honored to give the Commencement address at MSUM in December 2019. I talked all about what I learned in my time as a theatre student and how I have applied those lessons throughout my life.