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The mission of the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Wyoming is dedicated to the advancement, practice and understanding of theatre and dance arts. The central focus of the department is the preparation of students for graduate studies or for professional careers in the creation and interpretation of the visual and performing arts. Related to this focus is the commitment to share a wide range of human experiences with the UW student body and Laramie community through a vibrant and varied production season.
Areas of study in the department include acting, costuming, lighting, scenic design, playwriting, dance, dance science, musical theater, and theater education. Each of our degree tracks is varied according to discipline, but the underlying unifying force behind the training is the commitment to artistic excellence. The department believes that artistry in both theatre and dance are informed by a thorough study of history and literature across a wide range of diverse cultures, as well as a continuous engagement in the practices of theatre and dance production. It is also the philosophy of the department that all areas of study are complimentary and majors are encouraged to have experiences in all areas.
All undergraduates should demonstrate the ability to:
- Understand the basic production process in all areas of theatre or dance
- Become familiar with historical and cultural dimensions of theatre or dance
- Develop and have an appreciation for collaborative skills
- Make an informed assessment of quality in all theatrical activities
- Communicate effectively relative to their specific concentration
- Understand the demands and expectations of the profession
- Think on their feet and problem solve
- Do research and write at an acceptable beginning graduate level
- Synthesize and utilize knowledge from courses in the breadth of the discipline
- Function in a variety of contexts with self-knowledge, resilience and resourcefulness
- Develop communication and technological skills that will serve them in their professions as well as their community
- Develop global awareness and diversity
Additional Outcomes for Areas of Specialization
- Perform or design with an expressive range, stylistic versatility and high level of technical achievement (for Performers and Designers)
- Create and produce substantive, innovative and original work and to direct students in the performance of that work (for Choreographers, Directors, and Playwrights)
- Understand the basics of research in the field of dance medicine and science and application of this information to the dance classroom (for Dance Science)
- Help students get accepted to the MFA program of their choice
- Help students prepare for careers in their profession
- Help students to apply problem-solving and creative skills that they have developed to other careers from a wide range of interests.
Throughout a student's career in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Wyoming, there are both formal and informal assessments in place for all majors. All acting and dance majors must audition in order to be in all productions in our program. All design majors must be selected to design a show through class evaluations and assignments. Playwrights, directors and choreographers wanting to direct, choreograph and write for a main-stage or studio show, must be sponsored by a faculty member and present a proposal. These auditions and proposals serve as an informal assessment of the student's abilities and a way for students to be given informal feedback. Those students that are cast in the productions or who are selected to design, choreograph, or write an original piece for performance receive further assessment as they go through the process of preparing the play or dance concert.
In addition we have four formal assessment tools that provide feedback about our curriculum and production work: l) end of the year evaluations; 2) outside reviews of production work from regional and national respondents; 3) KCACTF (Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival), ACDFA(American College Dance Festival Association) and USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) assessment through regular competition and juried presentations; and 4) senior exit interviews.
End-of-the-year evaluations are a valuable tool for recognizing areas in need of improvement. As a result, over the years many substantive changes have been implemented in our department including hiring a voice and dialect coach and a male dance teacher, and courses to prepare our students for professional and educational auditions.
Although this process is constantly changing to meet the needs of the students and the department the current process divides the evaluations into the areas of study. Each area of study uses tools and documentation specific to the discipline. Following evaluations, faculty members from each area discuss the overall effectiveness of their training and look at any additional changes that need to be made. These discussions are documented by one of the faculty members and filed for future reference.
Outside Regional Evaluations
Outside regional evaluations are done for each of our five main stage productions as well as those that are written and directed by students on a yearly basis. An outside respondent from KCACTF Region VII or a dance respondent is brought in to evaluate all aspects of the production and to give feedback to the quality and success of the work. Feedback is given verbally after the performance. This feedback is audio recorded and filed. Additionally, the director is requested to type a written response to the feedback and keeps this on file for future reference.
A wide variety of response voices from across our entire region provide valuable feedback to faculty and students alike. The best student actors and pieces are nominated by these regionally trained adjudicators to go on to compete at the KCACTF regional festival where they are given the opportunity to be evaluated by national professionals and compete against other schools from our region. Faculty members are nominated for achievement awards for exceptional work. Dance performances are also taken to ACDFA where choreographers and student performers are given adjudicator feedback. Furthermore, for faculty members up for tenure or promotion, a respondent with a national reputation from outside of our region provides a written evaluation.
KCACTF and ACDFA Festivals
KCACTF and ACDFA Festivals and USITT Conference have become an important tool in assessing the development and training of our students. At the festivals students perform, direct, and design, and have their work evaluated by national professionals. Our successes at these festivals are a clear indication of our successes in the classroom and a clear indication of the level of training in our program.
Exit interviews are an annual part of our evaluation process. This year we will continue with implementing online evaluations. Seniors will be sent a series of questions, which they can respond to anonymously through an online server. Seniors will also have the option to meet with a faculty member to discuss these questions if they prefer. This evaluation process provides a truthful picture of how our graduating students perceive our program. These responses are anonymously documented and shared with all faculty members. Important issues are then highlighted and discussed at the following faculty retreat.
All of these formal tools (exit interviews, festival participation, outside regional evaluations and end of the year evaluations) have become an important part of student preparation for entering prestigious graduate programs or the job market. With every end of the year evaluation, every outside response, every KCACTF and ACDF competition, students develop stronger skills in presenting themselves to the outside professional world.
In addition to outside assessment, we have several capstone courses that prepare students for graduate level research and academics. Theatre History I and II (for all theatre students) and 20th Century Dance (for dance students) prepare students do graduate level research and formal presentations of that research. Directing I (for theatre performance majors) brings together all of the acting and technical training into a course where they must apply all of their learning. Intermediate Dance Composition courses serve the same purpose as Directing I. Design and Technology Seminar, Auditioning and Careers in Dance, and Auditioning and Professional Issues all serve as a capstone course specific to the area of study that prepares the students to present their portfolios, audition, and apply for graduate schools.
Students at the University of Wyoming are given exceptional opportunities to do independent projects. This culmination of practice can be through upper division classes, as part of their scholarship requirements, or a special Senior Project. Advanced Directors and Choreographers direct one acts or choreograph mounted productions for the public. Like our faculty production season, student productions are entered in KC/ACTF, ACDFA, and are adjudicated by outside regional respondents. Advanced designers have the opportunity to design fully mounted main-stage productions, and other projects such as the original student one acts. Student playwrights have their best scripts produced both the in the one-act and full-length form. Students in Dance Science conduct a pilot research study. Students also have the opportunity to showcase their projects at regional festivals and to have their work responded to by national respondents.
We keep track of all of our alumni on a yearly basis so that we can stay informed about their success in their careers. Through online social networking sites such as Facebook we continue to gain information about our alumni. We incorporate this information into our print newsletter and have a separate online alumni news feature.