In 2010, the School of Media Arts and the School of Theatre Arts came together to form the School of Theatre, Film & Television. Combining these two units was in large measure motivated by the economic effects of the Great Recession, including the dramatic decrease in state funding for higher education and the consequent effects on the University’s budget. Under these conditions, College of Fine Arts leadership was directed to reduce the number of academic units from five to four, and the creation of TFTV was the decided outcome of this mandate.
In tangible ways, TFTV has enjoyed considerable success over the past dozen years, and there is much of which we should all be rightfully proud. Several academic programs enjoy national reputations, student demand has in many cases been strong, graduates have gone on to prominent careers across the professions and industries in which our outstanding and dedicated faculty have prepared them to succeed, and our public performances and productions have a loyal following.
At the same time, the merger of Media Arts and Theatre Arts never fully took place. In fact, since its inception, TFTV has functioned, in practice, as two co-located units rather than as a single, unified School. This condition is reflected in many ways—in the budget, in the bylaws, in the allocation of space, in administrative structures, in the dual course numbering system, and most importantly, in the curriculum itself.
We are now at a crossroads in the history of the School, faced with several important conditions that make this a critical strategic moment to ensure that TFTV becomes a fully unified and cohesive School in administrative, operational, and curricular terms.
The conditions to which I refer were outlined at the TFTV faculty and staff retreat in August 2022, and include:
- The unique opportunities afforded by the presence of Theatre and Film within the same academic unit. This condition is enjoyed by very few of our peer institutions. It is, therefore, a crucial unrealized competitive advantage that, once seized, will position the School and its students for even greater success in the evolving professional world they are entering.
- The pressing need to ensure that our academic programs are effectively positioned with respect to the dramatic and disruptive shifts that have taken place, and will accelerate, in the industries, professions, and art forms for which we are training students. We are very fortunate in that Condition #1 makes us uniquely positioned to proactively and effectively do so.
- The launch of the University of Arizona’s new Activity-Informed Budget model, which puts an increased focus on numbers of majors, course enrollment, and graduated students. The long-term viability of the School requires us to align with the activities that determine the allocation of resources by the University.
- Related to Condition #3, the pressing need to rebalance the allocation of resources within the School in order to effectively translate prospective student demand into matriculated student enrollment, and to ensure that students succeed, graduate, and are well prepared for current and future directions of the increasingly integrated worlds of theatre, film, television, and associated media.
With these conditions in mind, the School has been engaged in a deep self-assessment of its academic programs. After consulting with the faculty at large, as well as the School’s executive committee, the assessment process culminated with the faculty offering a scenario that forms the basis for the changes outlined below. While not all of the faculty recommendations have been adopted, the bulk of the new vision has been drawn from the faculty suggestions. With this in mind, the faculty will begin revising curriculum in the following ways:
- The BFA in Acting will broaden its curricular focus to include training in acting for film, television, and associated media. Training in theatre will remain a core component of this revised curriculum.
- The BFA in Design and Technical Production will revise its curriculum to include not only training in theatre, but also in film and television design, and other entertainment design and technologies, as it has been doing gradually for the last few years.
- The BA in Theatre will expand its offerings to combine live performance, devised work, and screened performance to respond to robust student demand for a degree program that integrates all of these forms.
- The BFA in Film Production will broaden to more formally and structurally integrate actors, designers, and technologists from the School into its filmmaking process.
- The BA in Film and Television will now incorporate more film production coursework for BA students.
In order to accomplish these innovations and allocate resources accordingly, the decision has been made to sunset the following programs on the following timelines:
- The BFA in Musical Theatre will graduate its currently matriculated students, providing a complete curriculum and fully produced musicals through the end of the 2025/2026 academic year. Although the School will no longer have a professional training program in Musical Theatre after all remaining majors have graduated, future production seasons will include musical theatre performances.
- The MFA in Design/Technology will conclude at the end of the 2024/2025 academic year with the graduation of its currently enrolled cohort of students. These students will receive their complete curriculum and production assignments in fully produced plays and musicals.
This semester, TFTV faculty and leadership will begin undertaking the revisions and innovations described above with the goal of completing the approval process such that they will be available for an incoming class in the Fall of 2024. Continuing students in good academic standing who matriculated prior to the Fall of 2024 may be able to change to the appropriate revised degree plan if they wish, after evaluating the impact of that change with their academic advisors. Students with further questions about degree completion should contact their academic advisor.
Although revisions to the academic programs will not be complete until Fall 2024, the opening in Fall 2023 of the renovated Marroney Theatre will be emblematic of the new synergy in TFTV, with our audiences enjoying the work of our students in live theatre, film, and partnership productions.
The name of the School will not change. It both recognizes our splendid traditions and points to our exciting future. It perfectly expresses the belief that both live and screened performance are essential for the success of our current and future graduates. With this exciting new vision, we are truly fulfilling the promise inherent in our name: The School of Theatre, Film & Television.
There is much work ahead of us in continuing to both deliver and revise curriculum. All current TFTV faculty and staff will be needed to accomplish this. I look forward to working on this together.
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