Students at American International College have been performing in plays since the student theater club, The Garret Players, was established in the 1940s. But now for the first time, students will be able to take courses in acting, directing, theory, history, criticism and technical theater and earn a degree.
The new Theater Arts Program at AIC, the only program of its kind in the area, offers an interdisciplinary educational experience in theater arts. The program offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Theater Arts, as well as a minor in theater arts, both of which prepare students for further study and professional achievement.
Frank Borrelli, director of theater arts at AIC, said the mission of the Theater Arts Program is to support the development of well rounded, scholarly theater artists that can compete and be recognized as career professionals. "There is great interest in theater on campus and the students benefit from an educational environment that offers as many options for personal expression as possible," he said.
"Students will have the opportunity to audition for and take part in two major theatrical productions each academic year. Our past productions include Antigone and All My Sons, and we look forward to engaging our current and incoming students in the production process," he said.
Borrelli said in addition to the varied course work and training that students will engage in, they also have an opportunity to get involved on the co-curricular side of things. "The Garret Players Student Theater Organization was founded in 1948 and works to broaden the dialogue about theater on campus. The Garret Players produce improvisational comedy nights in the Stinger pub on campus, they work to support the main stage theatrical productions, volunteer for area arts organizations and develop independent theatrical productions over the course of the academic year," he said.
There will also be opportunities for internships and job opportunities. "As part of the culminating experience for each student in the program they must take the senior directing course through which they will direct a full scene and one, one act play as part of a one act play festival on campus. Students will during this time also engage in internships that will allow them the opportunity to work within the field. The program assists students in job placement, networking, and resume development" Borrelli said.
Theater students will also have the opportunity to take part in Summer Theater on campus. This summer, theater students will be performing Shakespeare monologues and short scenes for an overnight student orientation and a celebration of the history of the student body at AIC. Contemporary students will explore the parallels between them and the first students in 1885. In the future, summer theater will include a theater camp for youth with theater students as staff.
Borrelli said, students who study theater at the college will have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of career options that will ensure financial, spiritual, artistic and personal growth. "The career options span the discipline and are surprisingly varied, including Technical Theater and Design, Set Designer, Light Designer, Costume Designer, Voice over Artist and Dancer, just to name a few," he said.
"I could not be more overjoyed with the progress that the theater program has seen and the entire college community is responsible for the success of this new and exciting program," he said.
Students say the program is just what they were looking for. Jasmine J. Kearse, a junior theater minor from Springfield, said the new program gives her great hope for a future as a professional actress. "I am able to study the history and craft of theater while learning about myself and how to approach literature and text with understanding and excitement," she said.
Crysta Coss, a sophomore theater major from Springfield, agreed. “Coming to AIC and being able to work with the theater program has been the most fun and rewarding time I've ever had. I've been challenged and taught to trust myself and my ability. I believe I've grown more in one semester than I've have in years," she said.