In 1962, Tent Theatre was first conceived as a summer solution to a hot box theater with little ventilation and no air conditioning. At that time, it’s safe to assume no one would have imagined that during the subsequent six decades Tent Theatre would transform into a cornerstone of the department: an experience which provides students concentrating on stage management the opportunity to seamlessly transition from apprentice into card-carrying members of Actor’s Equity.
While Tent Theatre has certainly served to elevate the department, it by no means is the only asset the department of theatre and dance (T&D) has to offer. Since faculty member and coordinator of the BFA in design, technology, and stage management (DTSM), Cynthia Winstead, came to Missouri State University in 1990, she has observed changes that have transformed the program during her tenure. “The program is much more professionally oriented with specific classes in all the DTSM areas,” conforming to “all the requirements for a BFA DTSM degree as put forth by the National Association of Schools of Theatre (NAST).”
Additionally, since 1990, the faculty and staff has not only doubled, but is comprised of individuals with impressive professional credits and educational experience in theatre who are all
“well aware of how technology is changing our art form and we strive to incorporate those developments into our classes and departmental productions”
without undermining the value of the traditional craftsmanship required of all areas of design and technology.
According to Joseph Price, who is entering his second year as producer of Tent Theatre and serves as department head of T&D, last year the department “had a record of number of applicants for the BFA programs last year,” a clear indication that Missouri State University is becoming increasingly well known for endowing students with the skills and experience necessary to not only survive, but succeed in their future professional endeavors.
It remains important to both the department of theatre and dance and the College of Arts and Letters to grow and improve all aspects of their programs. The facilities are not only well-maintained, but constantly being improved: the most recent addition being the LED wall and the upgraded projection equipment, and there are hopes Tent Theatre will one day have a permanent home.
DTSM alums can be found working in every major market in the country. In fact, Winstead says that when recent graduate, Steve Milosevich, was offered a position on the stage management team for New York City’s Shakespeare in the Park, he was told he was a desirable candidate because he had previous “experience with the unique challenges of outdoor theatre because of his work with Tent Theatre.”
Having a program that provides the opportunity for students to “engage with professional actors, directors, and designers,” “work on important plays and musicals in front of sold out houses,” and in which “faculty and staff get the benefit of doing creative research on a professional stage” are three of the qualities Price lists off that he feels distinguishes Missouri State’s program from other schools.
From our faculty and program concentrations, to our facilities, and of course, Tent Theatre, MSU provides a truly unique opportunities to her students. Still no matter how much students, faculty, staff, and alumni love it here, as Price says,
“it’s great to be included on the Top 30 list and it speaks to the great work that is being done in theatre and dance.”
The first time appearing in a top 30 list for a program and a school is exciting, but 2019-2020 marks our second year on the list, a clear sign that such a distinction is the result of the caliber of our programs and the opportunities they provide, and not a passing fancy.