Kansas University's theater and film department isn't just for actors. In a sense, it's for everybody.
"I'm pretty happy that the theater faculty go out of their way to include students who aren't majors," said John Gronbeck-Tedesco, the acting chair of the department.
But the prospects for including more and more non-majors in the program are dwindling with budget cuts throughout the university.
"Ironically, that approach is threatend because the budget process cuts back on our staff," Gronbeck-Tedesco said. "Because of a lack of assistantships, we're less able to serve a broad-based community. We have to give priority to majors in some of our acting classes. With the cutbacks, we're less able to serve the whole educational community.''
GRONBECK-TEDESCO took over the chair of the department last spring with the retirement of Glenn Q. Pierce, who had held the position for three years. He said the department will make a final decision on Pierce's permanent replacement later in the semester.
The department chair works alongside Jack Wright, the director of the University Theatre. The chair supervises the academic functions of the department, and the University Theatre director serves as the artistic director for the department's performances.
The department offers a variety of degree programs on the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels. Undergraduates have the option of working toward a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of general studies.
"THE BACHELOR of general studies allows students to take more professionally aimed courses than the BA," Gronbeck-Tedesco said. "The basic purpose of the undergraduate training is to prepare the students to go on to a theater conservatory, and the BGS helps the students get more of the training they need. The BA is more of a general degree in theater.''
The department offers a master's degree with a specialty in children's theater as well as in history and criticism. It also offers an MFA program theater design, run in conjunction with the design department in the School of Fine Arts. The department has traditionally shied away from offering an MFA in acting or directing to concentrate efforts in the doctoral program, which now has about 38 students. The department's doctoral program has been ranked ninth in the country.
"WE FEEL that if we chose to offer an MFA it would be better than 60 percent of those programs in the country," Gronbeck-Tedesco said. "But with our resources we decided it wouldn't be the best concentration of our time and talent. So we've chosen to give our undergraduates first crack in the University Theatre productions. We have a lot of doctoral students who could act, but we want them to concentrate more on scholarship.''
Gronbeck-Tedesco teaches a variety of courses and edits the Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism, a semi-annual scholarly publication. Other aspects of the department include the International Theatre Studies Center under the direction of Andrew Tsubaki, KU professor of theater and film.
LAST SPRING, the university acquired through a gift from Charles and Hortense Oldfather the Centron Studios facility on West Ninth, which could help the department build up its film program. Charles Oldfather is a retired KU law professor.
"We ended up with some equipment and a few people to start a film and video program," Gronbeck-Tedesco said. "We have a lot of students interested in that area, and we try to serve them.''
The building, renamed Oldfather Studios, includes a large sound stage where the faculty intends to teach film and video production and a storage area that could be used for any number of purposes, said Edward Small, professor of theater and film. Small said he intends to teach an advanced film production class there this fall.
The facility also has a number of film editing rooms as well as space for a 30-seat classroom, a seminar-screening room and faculty offices.
"It was an enormously generous gift on the part of the Oldfathers," said Chuck Berg, a KU professor of theater and film, whose office will now be at the building.