Changes coming to the theater program at AC

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Kathleen Wilbur

Assumption College recently made personnel cuts in the theater department while simultaneously suspending the minor for the upcoming academic years. Visiting Instructor Brian Tivnan, who has been in charge of the theater program at Assumption for 13 years, was let go “for financial reasons,” according to the College. His contract will end on May 31, 2014.

According to Provost Dr. Francis Lazarus, theater classes will be held next year, but no new majors or minors will be accepted. Currently, there is one theatre major and two minors.

“It gives an academic officer no pleasure to close down or restrict in any other way any academic program at a college. One hopes that you spend most of your career creating, developing, building and overall supporting programming that make more opportunities available for students and faculty. There are times when that’s not possible. This is one of those times at Assumption College,” Lazarus said.

“It’s not sustainable to afford a full-time faculty member for numbers that are that small,” he added.

“Actually the program is very active. I taught three to four classes each year which were always overfilled and I produced and directed two major productions yearly. In total, I served 130 to 150 students every year,” Tivnan, who was part time this year, said.The cut, according to Assumption, was done out of a need to be cost effective and maintain affordability. Guest directors will continue the spring productions at the Hanover Theatre in coming years. Assumption signed a five-year contract with the Hanover in July 2013.

Tivnan told the Telegram that he was not offered the guest director job, and also commented that he wouldn’t have accepted the offer if he had been.

“Per policy, the college does not comment on personnel matters, however with only three students minoring in theatre and no major, the position was eliminated as part of the recent restructuring to control costs and maintain affordability at Assumption,” said Assumption’s Executive Director of Communications Michael K. Guilfoyle in a statement to the Telegram and Gazette.

“[The College] remains strongly committed to the visual, fine and performing arts, including the spring theatrical performance,” Guilfoyle said.

“The President has made it very clear to me and to everybody else that theater will remain a part of the curriculum at Assumption College. Precisely how that will happen is not yet clear,” said the Provost.

“Theater IS an academic pursuit at just about every liberal arts college of repute in the country; especially those colleges AC competes with for the same students. Reducing Theater to a club status will certainly lessen the quality of the work and it certainly says that their interest in Theater is not worthy of study,” said Tivnan.

“Consider Matt Angelini, AC 2013, who stunningly starred as Valjean in Les Miserables this past month. He studied with me for five years. After taking my acting class and Theater Experience class, he learned how to develop a professional acting process. He nurtured that process with my direction over five years. He is moving to New York City to make his way as an actor/singer,” Tivnan said. “That kind of learning growth and nurturing is what AC students are losing by the administration’s actions.”

Currently, no theater classes are being offered for the Fall 2014 semester.

Since Tivnan was let go, concern, dismay and sadness have been felt among former students and actors.

“Brian has the extremely rare talent of connecting with each and every student. I don’t believe that Assumption will ever be able to find a director as dedicated, caring and compassionate Brian is,” said junior Nicole Gamberale. “It was a pleasure and honor to have him with us for as long as we did and he will be greatly missed.”

“He’s made some real contributions to the College and to the students with those performances,” Lazarus said.

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