BY KELLY KENDALL
It all started with Waiting for Lefty, a drama staged in April 2012 about a taxi drivers’ strike. Then came The Rimers of Eldritch, an avant-garde murder mystery produced in November.
With two more productions scheduled for this academic year—the Edward Albee classic Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Giver, based on the Newbery Medal-winning book by Lois Lowry—Ivy Tech-Bloomington is setting the stage for the school system’s first theater program. The ultimate goal: an associate of fine arts degree program with concentrations available in theater and dance.
Ivy Tech-Bloomington recently received permission from the Indiana Commission for Higher Education to create such a program, says John Whikehart, chancellor of the Bloomington campus. Beyond academics, there’s another distinct advantage to developing a vibrant theater scene, he notes.
“Community colleges tend to have a tougher road to hoe in terms of making connections with students,” says Whikehart. “We know that the stronger the connections we can make with students outside the classroom, the greater opportunity they’ll have to persist and succeed.”
While several campus clubs already exist, says Whikehart, theater seemed like an exciting addition—so much so that he even took a role in the spring production of Waiting for Lefty.
The program is thriving, thanks to cooperation with Indiana University and the Bloomington Playwrights Project, as well as to Ivy Tech’s acquisition of the John Waldron Arts Center, which houses two theater spaces. The nontraditional nature of the spaces makes it all the more interesting, says Artistic Director Paul Daily, who’s overseeing the budding theater program.
“We can play,” he says. “We can embrace the theatricality of every event and make the most of the spaces we’re working with.” For instance, actors sat in the audience for Waiting for Lefty and engaged theatergoers as if in a real union hall meeting. The Rimers of Eldritch was staged with an audience capacity of just 28 people. “I don’t think anyone else in town can take that kind of risk,” says Daily.
Courses are expected to be up and running by fall 2013, and credits will likely be transferrable to IU.