Letter: Here we go again, fighting to preserve theater

Posted 2/2/23

To the editor: Let’s be real. We’ve been here before and we’ll be here again. When it comes to theater programs and other art programs, all we ever seem to do is fight, and the …

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Letter: Here we go again, fighting to preserve theater

Posted

To the editor:

Let’s be real. We’ve been here before and we’ll be here again. When it comes to theater programs and other art programs, all we ever seem to do is fight, and the fight is back at the high school.

I could quote so many studies that show the value of the theater arts, the self-confidence it gives people, the sense of value, the safe place it offers. Theater programs offer an inclusivity that is seen almost nowhere else, but you can read those studies yourselves; they are everywhere.

What I do have to offer is firsthand knowledge of those things. I, and many others, have spent countless volunteer hours over the past twelve years watching the kids in our community grow into young people we are proud to send out into the world. The theater I have been involved with has been almost like a full-time job but was worth every second for the kids and adults who thrive in that type of inclusive, supportive environment.

Unfortunately, we are also fighting, so we aren’t feeding the high school program like we have in the past.
Now, that same inclusive, supportive environment is being taken away because enrollment is down? This is how we support part of our community? We tell them that what they need from us isn’t that important and we would rather just drop it than try harder?

According to Superintendent Ana Riley, for six years they’ve been hoping the program would “rebuild itself and kids would just come into it.” Sounds like a lot of effort has been put into supporting this program, doesn’t it?

We currently have an excellent theater teacher at the high school in Mackenzie Maron, and it would be a huge disservice to let her go and be snapped up elsewhere (which is exactly what will happen). My question is, since the program was let lapse at the middle school, why wasn’t Ms. Maron hired to handle both programs, as she doesn’t have full-time hours at the high school? Wouldn’t this have solved the problem?
So, yes Ms. Riley, the decision to phase out the theater program does “pull at peoples’ heartstrings,” but I don’t think that you or previous superintendents have been trying to “honor it,” as you say. I think this is a bad decision, and while I am very tired of fighting this fight, I will not stop because it is so very important to so many of our young people, and they deserve the support.

Marie Knapman
Goulart Avenue, Bristol

Ms. Knapman is chairperson of the board of directors of the Bristol Theatre Company.

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