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What’s new in the CSU theatre department this year?

The+University+Center+for+the+Arts+under+snow.+
Collegian | Collegian file photo
The University Center for the Arts under snow.

The 2023-24 school year is bringing some changes to the Colorado State University theatre department.

In previous years, being admitted to CSU was an automatic acceptance into the theatre program, but an audition tape or portfolio submission — depending on your concentration — is now required. 

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Concentrations include but are not limited to project design, costume design, performance and set design. 

According to CSU’s Acceptd page, for musical theatre and performance concentrations, the audition tape doubles as a scholarship audition. 

“We did a curricular overhaul,” said Megan Lewis, the director of CSU theatre since 2020. “We basically looked at all of our courses, we streamlined things and we made the prerequisites better.”

Lewis explained that these changes make it easier for students to focus on more specific things within their concentration as well as have the option to study more than one, such as lighting and sound or costume and set. 

“Due to some budget constraints, we had to make a decision about who we can effectively support in our department,” Lewis said. 

Last year they decided to cap the major at cohorts of 16 so that the limited staff can deliver the best education to students.

“This doesn’t mean that we are some sort of elite conservatory thing — it’s nothing like that,” Lewis said. “We are still very much committed to our liberal arts approach and accessibility.”

Saffron Henke, associate professor and head of performance for the CSU theatre department, shared some of the potential drawbacks to this decision. 

“The biggest drawback, and we considered this carefully, was access,” Henke said. “In addition to making sure prospective students can easily submit video auditions, the capped class cohort also means that not every student who applies may get accepted.” 

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Although this change has its disadvantages, overall it was the right decision for students and teachers because it allows for more attentive and in-depth feedback, Henke said.

In terms of auditions, Henke said she is looking for students who are talented and hungry to get better.

Students get to pick what auditions they submit as long as they fit the criteria and genre the department is asking for.

“We are looking for potential,” Lewis said. “I mean, why would you come to college if you’re already a professional?”

Lewis explained that maintaining these smaller class sizes enables students to get the hands-on learning and experience they need to become successful artists. 

“We now have a better way to assess who’s coming in (and) what their strengths are and then help them in the path that they want to take through the major,” Lewis said. 

In addition to the admission requirement developments, there is also a new faculty member. Javier Hurtado joined the theatre team this year as assistant professor of theatre after getting his Ph.D. at Tufts University. 

Walt Jones, who previously taught playwriting and directing, retired last year, giving Hurtado the opportunity to join the team. According to the CSU theatre website, Hurtado specializes in contemporary U.S. Latinx theater and performance, 19th and 20th century U.S. theater and LGBTQ+ theater and film.

The department said on its website that their mission is “to encourage awareness of diversity, then relay that into a theatrical context specific to our environment.”

Hurtado said diversity and inclusion are some of his core considerations.

I will continue to make opportunities for young actors, directors, writers and scholars from across a spectrum of marginalized experiences to see themselves onstage and represented in the field of theater studies through my work at CSU,” Hurtado said. 

Hurtado wrote that he benefited from mentor support as a nontraditional first-generation student, and he are excited to see students in a similar situation succeed. 

“It’s also inspiring to witness moments when people experience the unique community that theater builds and to watch the value of an arts education become apparent for the first time,” Hurtado said. “Those are the things that most inspire my career.”

Hurtado, along with other staff members, are excited to start up the new school year.

“We really care for our students, and we are tailoring their education to their skills and potentials and areas for growth,” Lewis said.

Reach Alex Hasenkamp at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @alexhasenkamp.

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About the Contributor
Alex Hasenkamp
Alex Hasenkamp, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Alex Hasenkamp is the returning arts and entertainment editor for The Collegian. Last year was Hasenkamp's first time working for The Collegian as the A&E editor, and she is happy to be back. Over the summer, Hasenkamp worked as a writing intern for The Borgen Projecta nonprofit organization working toward ending global poverty. She learned a lot, and she intends on finding another internship or writing position at a paper this upcoming summer as well. Currently a journalism and media communication major and a French minor, Hasenkamp is hoping to study abroad her senior year with the goal of learning and writing about different cultures. Growing up in Seattle, Hasenkamp loves anything music-related and enjoys the opportunity to write about local bands and concerts for the school paper. Besides reporting, Hasenkamp enjoys skiing and playing ultimate frisbee for the Colorado State University team Hell's Belles. She also has an affinity for the visual arts: Previously an art major at the University of Oregon, she enjoys covering local art shows and exhibits, as well as sketching up the occasional graphic for her articles.

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