Theatre and Dance in the Community
Project Leaders: Mark Charney, Director, School of Theatre and Dance; Linda Donahue, Associate Director, School of Theatre and Dance (College of Visual and Performing Arts)
The School of Theatre and Dance instituted a school-wide community engagement course almost three years ago that features after-school theatre/dance activities in under-served areas of Lubbock both on and off campus. Students in every program (BA, BFA, MA, MFA, PhD) enroll in the required service-learning course. The graduate students, who study the theoretical aspects of arts-based community outreach, mentor undergraduates in leading semester-long arts activities, and the two classes exist simultaneously.
“This course is one-of-a kind,” says Linda Donahue. “We haven’t learned of another university which requires full participation from all students to a community-wide effort. We have 70 graduate students and 130 undergrads who will participate in this course at some point during their time at TTU. ” Dr. Donahue helped to originate the graduate section of this class, and continues to work actively in the community. “Our belief is that, while we appreciate service-learning components IN the classroom, we want entire classes dedicated to “making Lubbock our campus,” and to prove to students the value of actually sharing their knowledge and affection of theatre and dance with the community. We’ve actually found that the Theatre/Dance in the Community Class is widely popular with our present students and acts as a positive recruiting tool for all of our programs,” adds Mark Charney, Director of the School of Theatre and Dance. In its third year, the class generally enrolls 7-10 graduate students and 15-20 undergraduates that allows for an intimate ratio between the graduate “mentors” and the mentees.
Photos by Hannah Jo Anderson and Cathy Jung.
Prior to the beginning of the semester, instructors make connections with Lubbock community agencies that seek after-school arts activities. Recent partners include the Burkhart Center for Autism Education and Research, Covenant Children’s Hospital, Boys and Girls Clubs, Dunbar College Preparatory Academy, Ervin Elementary, Hutchinson Jr. High, and the Guadalupe and Parkway Centers. “Our entire theatre and dance faculty embraced the idea of this class which was originally proposed by Dr. Norman Bert,” says Charney. “We are committed to making a difference in the community by doing what we do best—theatre and dance. During the past three years, we have realized that our efforts are changing lives through the arts, and all our students are learning valuable lessons about giving back to society and promoting the restorative power of the arts.”
The unique program has evolved in the last three years into a signature event for the School. “At first this endeavor seemed daunting,” states Donahue, “but we are committed. Our go-to saying is ‘If this were easy, everyone would do it,’ and now we are promoting this program to other universities as a model for important service learning and impactful community engagement.” (Authors: Linda Donahue and Mark Charney).