March 20, 2008Time is precious for high school or middle school theater teachers. The hours required to coordinate curriculum and organize school productions leave little room in one’s schedule to pursue an advanced degree.
Thanks to the University of Houston School of Theatre & Dance, full-time theater teachers now can earn master’s degrees through a unique summer graduate program. Starting this June, the school will offer a 36-hour, non-thesis master’s program, which is the only one of its kind in this region of the United States.
“These teachers’ schedules are extremely demanding, so we’re offering this degree during the summer months when they are not in the classroom,” said Steven Wallace, director for the School of Theatre & Dance. “Typically, a high school or middle school will use their summers to plan productions for the upcoming school year. They actually will have the opportunity to do that within the context of these master’s classes.”
In addition to learning from the university’s renowned faculty, master’s students will also travel to New York, London and selected U.S. cities to view productions and participate in workshops with some of the city’s stage professionals.
These master’s students are expected to complete 12 hours of coursework during a five-week period and graduate after three summer semesters. Courses will cover topics such as acting, technical theater and design, playwriting, dramaturgy and theater management. After completing all of the required coursework, they will earn a master of arts in theatre.
Wallace recently recruited noted education veteran Jackie deMontmollin to fully develop this new program. deMontmollin has joined the School of Theatre & Dance as its new associate director of theatre education. She is responsible for curriculum development, sequencing and oversight of courses in the summer master’s program. deMontmollin has an extensive history of developing and building theater education programs in secondary schools.
Hiring an experienced educator with proven success to develop and run the program is an effort on the university’s part to ensure that students’ needs are being met throughout this three-year program, Wallace said.
deMontmollin’s most recent work was with Katy Independent School District, where she developed the theater program at Cinco Ranch High School and led it to state and national recognition.
“It’s exciting to be a part of a team that has a strong desire to reach out to the theater education community on K-12 levels,” said deMontmollin. “Theater teachers in the state of Texas work incredibly long hours and have limited time during the school year to pursue an advanced degree. We’re working to develop an opportunity to allow these educators an opportunity to refresh and recharge during the summer, as well as enhance their skills in a relevant and rigorous degree program.”
Only three other institutions in the U.S. offer similar summer master’s programs: Roosevelt University, New York University and South Oregon University.
“This is a model program in that it combines the best pedagogical practice with strong university support for art programs in secondary schools,’’ said John Antel, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
The UH School of Theatre & Dance’s graduate program also consists of a master of fine arts degree in theatre with specializations in acting, directing and design. This year, the school announced MFA students will work alongside professionals from Houston’s esteemed Alley Theatre. The school also offers bachelor’s degrees in theatre and teacher certifications in dance.
Each fall and spring, the school produces five plays performed in the Wortham Theatre and the Jose Quintero Theatre, two dance concerts, the Stuart Ostrow Musical Theatre Workshop, student productions, the New Play Festival, the Houston Shakespeare Festival and the Children's Theatre Festival. The school has benefitted from notable star faculty such as Edward Albee, Lanford Wilson, Sir Peter Hall and Jose Quintero. Among current faculty are Houston Shakespeare Festival founder Sidney Berger, Tony Award-winning playwright Medoff and Tony Award-winning producer Stuart Ostrow.
For details on UH’s School of Theatre & Dance, visit http://www.class.uh.edu/theatre/.