One of the main reasons I chose to come back to VIU three years ago was for the Theatre minor. I had done my first year in 2006, and then I took a break. While considering other schools, I decided to take another look at VIU. I was elated to find a course specifically on lighting design. So I came back and have not regretted it. Even through the strike two years ago, I loved VIU. However, now I’m not sure anymore.
In class last week, we were told that VIU is cutting the Theatre minor, going back to the two-year technical diploma. Course-wise what that means is we lose all upper-level classes, including lighting design. Nine courses in all, with only three being taught per year, most of which are taught by professors already teaching lower-level courses. It means that we lose all specialization in Theatre at this school. That’s what we lose, on paper, but in reality we are losing so much more.
After four years and countless hours working together we are more than just classmates, we are a team. A few years back, the upper-level students started putting on their own show, raising money for a local charity and for a scholarship given to a Theatre student. We put this show on entirely by ourselves. Not even the strike stopped us; we performed on the picket line and at a local high school. It is a huge opportunity to put this show on, and it doesn’t look like we will be able to continue to do so with the loss of the minor.
It’s not just about the work we do during school. Those four years give the students chances to network within their group of peers, which is everything in this business. We form relationships with these people and we carry those relationships into the workforce. We have these people we have worked with, and we trust each other. It’s so frustrating to have this taken away from us.
We are blessed in our program to get hands-on experience in first year, due to the small class sizes the school prides itself on. By the time we reach third year, we have a solid idea of where we want to go in the industry and are able to spend the last two years working towards that. By the end of my second year I knew I wanted to do lighting design. Now that I’m in my fourth year, I have been able to pursue that to the point where I am working in the industry. Without my third year there is no way I would have been able to do that. I am leaving this school with my Bachelor of Arts, minor in Theatre, and I feel confident going out and working. That is thanks to being able to spend an extra two years at this school, with the professors and with my peers. I suppose other students in situations similar to mine will just have to go elsewhere, which is too bad considering we have the potential program and the facilities right here.