Posted March 2, 2018
Senior Kyia Britts has almost always felt at home either on stage or behind the curtains. She has been involved in theater since the age of 8 and chose to attend UW-River Falls to major in theater arts to continue her passion.
Britts, like the other 55 current Stage and Screen Arts majors, chose that department for their post-secondary education for a number of reasons, including the size of the university.
“Even though our department is small, it is so worth it,” she said. “You can put your hands on every single part of theater and you get to experience it in a much different light than you would at a big university. Here someone might come in as an actor, but they might be stage managing by the end of their second year.”
The Stage and Screen Arts Department is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. From producing plays to designing sets and lighting, students gain theater experience.
This experience allowed Britt to find her ultimate passion, she said. “I came in initially looking to act and have found my absolute passion in lighting. I never would have had that chance had I gone to a big university.”
The size of the university allowed Britt to get close to her professors, she added. “I can text them and ask them questions if I’m working on a project late. They’re always there for me.”
As a large portion of universities across the country have started cutting funding to creative art departments, UWRF’s appears to be thriving.
When the largest freshman class since 2009 came to the campus this fall, the Stage and Screen Arts program benefited. According to Robin Murray, chair of Stage and Screen Arts, the program added 18 new majors – a 33 percent increase over the previous year.
Murray says that the department is graduating 6-8 majors annually. Graduates find work in a variety of industries based on their experience. Some go on to jobs in marketing or communications, video production for non-profits or even working in Los Angeles.
Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Tricia Davis says that she is very please with the developments and growth of the Stage and Screen Arts Department.
“My goal for them is to keep doing what they are doing. My goal is to hopefully keep the growth in the student body which helps give us support getting more faculty members,” she said. “I love the art department, I love the theater department. Music. I think those are what make an arts and sciences program liberal arts.”
The Stage and Screen Arts Department also serves as a tool to reach out to the community. This is accomplished through offering a variety of productions open to the public.
“Having someone come up at the end of the show or even be in tears at the end of the show is really moving,” Britts said. “For them to sit there and say this will stick with me for the rest of my life, we’ve had people say that. We’ve had people say that they’ve been going through similar circumstances and they couldn’t believe that we were able to portray it so vividly.”
The current show, “Silent Sky,” enters its final weekend Thursday-Saturday. Directed by Murray, the show celebrates the late Henrietta Swan Leavitt. Leavitt used pulsating stars to calculate how far Earth was, from distant galaxies, at Harvard College in the early 20th century.
Britts agrees that the department is about more than just getting a degree.
“There are a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds who are involved here,” she said. “Whether they are majors or not, we all have that understanding of ‘we might not agree with you, but we’re going to listen, because everyone’s opinion is valid.”
Learning to be able to collaborate and work with a lot of different people is important, Britt said. “We’re here to entertain, but there’s more to it than just putting on a show.”