Drury's theatre department, at home in the recently renovated Springfield Hall, provides a solid and broad-based foundation for theater students. Classroom space, a design studio and a studio theater allow students to learn a wide range of skills in an up-to-date environment. This broad-based approach is an intentional and integral part of the program.
Dr. Robin Schraft, theatre department chair, described the department's approach as mirroring a full liberal arts education. "Our students aren't learning to be actors, directors, designers, stage managers or historians. They are learning theater in its totality, coupled with the readings and the experiences they have as liberal arts students."
Narrowing the focus, he explains, can be a graduate school process. At that point a student can decide to be a director, actor, designer or lawyer. Drury's students approach graduate programs with a well-constructed base of knowledge that gives them success whichever route they take.
In addition to acting and front-stage positions, Drury students are also exposed to multiple areas of backstage or behind-the-scenes experiences. "One of the things we do is try to separate the idea of design and technical skill," said Dr. Mick Sokol, new theatre professor.
Calling it the yin and yang of theater, Sokol is passionate about the need to find balance between design and technical skills. "Design is the dreaming up of ideas - the person who creates what is going to be. The technical person executes what the design person dreams up. You have to know about each one." Options are greater for people who can execute the scenery, which is a strength of teaching a full range of theater skills.
One of the nice things about learning technical theater skills is their applicability to real life. Dr. Sokol indicates that theater skills provide self-sufficiency wherever life takes you. "There is an incredible usability to what we do. It's an interesting thought, that in the world of make-believe, we find things that apply to our daily routines."
According to Dr. Schraft, the size of Drury's theatre program is one of its greatest strengths. The program is anchored enough in terms of resources and bodies to provide multiple and varied opportunities for student involvement, including non-theatre majors who are simply looking for a creative outlet. At the same time, it is small enough for every student to have an intricate involvement. "It is within expectation that a student who has the goal to design, will design a major stage production at Drury," he said. "That connectivity and those resources provide opportunities that precious few departments can offer."