EUREKA – Due to a lack of interest, Eureka College has decided to end its theater program.
"In an effort to appropriately direct and invest the college's resources, we made the difficult but necessary decision to discontinue the theater arts and drama major and minor at the end of the academic year," it was indicated in a press release.
According to Ann Fulop, EC’s vice president of academic affairs and provost, nine students have graduated with degrees in theater since 2017 and two more are scheduled to graduate in May.
“The numbers pretty much speak for themselves,” said Fulop.
One double major remains on campus, but that individual is far along as it relates to the study of theater.
“Students want to do theater as a co-curricular, but they do not want to study it as an academic major,” said Fulop. “We’re struggling now to figure out how to provide that experience.”
According to EC President Jamel Wright, it was "a very targeted" decision.
"We need to figure out how to reset the program and make it more competitive," said Wright.
The schedule for the 2021-22 EC theatre season was unveiled last month, before the decision to end the theater major and minor was announced.
Fulop noted auditions are scheduled this week for a fall production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
“We will be talking to those students,” she added.
According to Fulop, the contracts of the two faculty members who teach theater arts will not be renewed. Neither one responded to messages for comment.
In the statement, the college stated, "While the major and minor will no longer be available, we continue to support and appreciate the value of theater at Eureka College and are currently planning next year's production season as an extracurricular option."
At the same time, EC is ending its program for theater majors,
“We are growing our arts program,” said Fulop.
This includes a digital media and design major that was updated in ‘17 and has graduated 17 students and programs in music, including a music ministry concentration.
The statement went on to say a new design, audio and piano production lab will open on campus next fall with support from alumni and donors.
As for the decline in undergraduates who major in theater, Fulop said, “It’s hard to know how much COVID contributed to the problem.”
She added it may have accelerated the situation, but the decline started before the pandemic.