Larry Blanscett, 74-year-old playwright and Ogden resident, was taken aback when the theatre arts class he hoped to audit, Directing II, was replaced with a three-student creative directing project.
According to Tracy Callahan, who has taught the course every two years for the last several years, she has selected three female students based upon their directing emphases and their exemplary performances in preliminary classes to participate in the course. The three students will spend the semester workshopping half-hour pieces of theatre, based on current social problems, that will be showcased in the spring.
“I’m trying to teach them to create theatre — not just read scripts,” Callahan said. “It’s a celebration of students’ unique ideas and voices.”
Blanscett, however, was disappointed at the missed opportunity to learn from the course and felt that the selective project would leave other students out — especially those who were counting on taking the course this semester to satisfy possible degree requirements.
“I didn’t need the course,” Blanscett said, “But I think that some students may have.”
Blanscett explained that he is an up-and-coming scriptwriter with four stories on their way to production.
“I just wanted to get a better picture of what it’s like to be on that side of the director’s chair because I’m hoping to be sitting in it soon.”
He explained that he was also planning to keep an eye out for prospective paid cast members among Weber State theatre students as he attended class, but now feels that there is less of a chance of finding his cast at the university.
As for the students who may have reportedly been left out, Callahan assures that there are many other classes for theatre arts majors to take that will satisfy degree requirements. She does not believe that any student was greatly inconvenienced by the selective process.
The chosen students met a series of specific requirements above and beyond their expected workload in previous classes, and Callahan feels that they deserve the opportunity to learn in a firsthand, intimate way what it is like to be directors.
Professor Thomas Priest, the department chair for performing arts, believes that instructors make the decisions that are best for their students, and if students are displeased with those decisions, they ought to go straight to the involved professor to work through the discomfort.
“We want to get our students graduated,” Priest said. “We are on your side, and that’s why we encourage you to speak to your advisers and plan courses ahead of time.”
Although Priest’s advice isn’t applicable in Blanscett’s case, he hopes that by having the necessary conversations, those involved will reach a resolution.