Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 14, 2015

Rep term decision process sparks dispute

Repertory Term is approaching this upcoming winter term, yet there have been discrepancies and controversies about the application process.

Every three years, the Knox Theatre Department holds Repertory Term, an intensive, immersive theatre experience. For the 10 weeks of Winter Term, students in the program take three theatre classes and produce two shows in the time it normally takes to produce one. Each show is produced five times, imigreenbird26tating a repertory company such as the National Theater in London, which switches between shows instead of producing only one show eight times a week. Students in Rep Term get a chance to experience life inside a professional theatre company.

When Rep Term last took place in 2013, the department was looking for 36 students, and they received the perfect amount of students interested. There didn’t need to be any application process at all; anybody interested was allowed to participate. The previous Rep Term in 2010, however, there were over 60 interested students to fill the 36 spots. In this case, they took on an application process to decide who would be a part of the program. 

This year, there are 49 students interested in Rep Term. The department had to discuss different ways of handling it.

According to Neil Blackadder, Chair of the Theatre Department, “When the faculty met to talk about this in the summer, at the end of Spring Term, we decided what we were going to do is make the selection process largely random. There would be some students who we would have to pre-admit because they would already be very much involved in the process. We have students who have been appointed to be designers or assistant designers on the show, so in some cases they’ve already been doing a lot of work on these productions that will be produced in winter.”

Besides the students who have been pre-appointed positions, some students can only wait to see if they got in, based on a random selection process. The process is similar to the one the registrar uses when any typical class is over-enrolled. The professor sets guidelines, such as letting in a certain amount of sophomores, juniors, and seniors, making sure the gender balance is relatively equal.

The department shared this news with students in September.

Senior Sammie Zimay described how most students reacted to the news during the mandatory Rep Term meeting. “You could tell that people were starting to panic right away. Especially by the questions they were asking, and the way they were looking at their friends, that everyone was getting pretty anxious,” she said.

Most students were against the random selection process. A Facebook forum was started where students discussed the process and what they thought about it. The general consensus was that an application process would be better; that way students would be accepted to the program based on merit rather than probability and luck. Even alumni posted in the Facebook event saying they were disturbed by the new random selection process.

There were few students who did think the selection process was fair, considering admission to Rep Term was never guaranteed. “Our feeling is, there’s no perfect way to do this, there’s no way to change the fact that there’ll be a few students who want to do Rep Term who deserve the chance to do rep term who won’t be able to,” Blackadder said.

Rep Term isn’t just open to theatre majors, and it’s constantly urged that students outside of the program apply. Yet it’s difficult for students who’ve been doing theatre for years at Knox, and dedicated a lot of time to it, to think their position could be given up to somebody who has never participated in theatre at Knox before. For those who have participated in theatre, they also wished they could showcase that to the professors picking the participants.

“Rep Term, as far as I know, it’s a very intense process; it’s going to appeal to those people who really want to commit their time and energy, blood, sweat and tears to producing these shows in ten weeks,” Zimay said. “I know that for me and a lot of other people, we’ve spent a lot of time in theatre. Theatre is kind of an activity where you do theatre and there’s not much else you have time for. So it was just a little difficult to hear them say that the time we’ve put into previous things that we’ve done wasn’t actually going to benefit us.”

Conversation continued between students and faculty about what would be best for the term. “I’ve been pleased with the way the students have respectfully told us, ‘This is why we wonder if this system is the best one.’ There are students who really want to do Rep Term who worry that this random selection process might mean that they don’t get the chance to,” Blackadder explained. “So we decided to have the students submit an essay in which they’re asked to explain why they want to do Rep Term, why they’re qualified to do Rep Term, what they’ll bring to Rep Term.” These applications were due Oct. 12.

The committee will now choose the participants for Rep Term based off of their essay, a process which seems to be well-accepted by students. Yet there’s no way to please everybody, no matter what the department decided regarding the selection process. There will always be some upset.

“I think no one’s going to settle down until the group has been chosen. There will be no settling until we know for sure who’s doing it and who’s not,” Zimay said.

Erika Riley, Editor-in-Chief
Erika Riley is a junior majoring in creative writing and minoring in journalism. During her sophomore year, she worked as a news editor, and during her freshman year, she worked as a layout editor. She is the winner of the 2017 Ida M. Tarbell Prize for Investigative Reporting and the recipient of First Place Front Page Layout from the Illinois Press Association in 2016. Twitter: @ej_riley

Tags:  changes drama rep term theatre winter term

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