Letter: Mourning loss of UNCA drama program

Graphic by Lori Deaton

[Regarding “UNCA Chancellor Proposes Four Academic Programs for Elimination, One for Reduction,” June 13, Asheville Watchdog via Xpress website:]

I write to mourn the proposed loss of UNC Asheville’s venerable drama program, not to praise it. Chancellor  Kimberly van Noort declares it a financial loser, and Chancellor van Noort’s only desire is to serve — and uplift students. So therefore, let theater answer for the crime of not serving or uplifting our students without needless ceremony.

Learned members of the UNC Board of Governors are already familiar with the long list of soft skills that drama classes impart, the very least of these being communication, teamwork, problem-solving, adaptability, leadership, time management, concentration and creative thinking. But Chancellor van Noort says theater is a financial loser. And Chancellor van Noort only wants to serve — and uplift students.

Being representatives of one of the most revered institutions in this great state, members of the Board of Governors are undoubtedly aware that another treasured institution, the State Theatre of North Carolina, is located only 25 miles south of the university, producing an economic benefit of roughly $14 million annually for WNC. But Chancellor van Noort says theater is a financial loser. And Chancellor van Noort only wants to serve — and uplift students.

Being proud citizens of North Carolina, members of the Board of Governors all easily hold a fondness in their hearts for the cultural and artistic touchstone of our state that is the city of Asheville and its surroundings, boasting over 20 theater companies that benefit from this program, attracting tourist dollars from across the globe. But Chancellor van Noort says theater is a financial loser. And Chancellor van Noort only wants to serve — and uplift students.

Finally, as good stewards of our state educational system, the Board of Governors understands that a wise manager helps an important but struggling program by adding resources rather than taking them away. But Chancellor van Noort says theater is a financial loser. And Chancellor van Noort only wants to serve — and uplift students.

I am not writing to question Chancellor van Noort’s proposal to kill the drama program at UNCA, but rather to question if we should have ever had one. If theater is such a financial loser, then why has it ever existed? Why has the human race ever longed for the connection, the expression, the creative urge that theater satisfies in our souls? Why ever hold a mirror up to show the best and worst parts of our humanity? Why can’t we build a better community with unexamined lives? Surely if we don’t need theater now, then we never did. And while I may mourn its loss today, I am certain the money saved will be enough to fill the hole it leaves in WNC.

— Travis V. Lowe


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3 thoughts on “Letter: Mourning loss of UNCA drama program

  1. Enlightened Enigma

    In our current culture of the need to weed out the pretenders, losing the ‘drama’ dept is not all bad … I ‘beseech’ you to to find other non essentials to cut.

  2. Curious

    Mr. Lowe’s plea is heartfelt and will be appreciated by the UNCA Drama Department. All arts groups, including those affiliated with universities, must do constant and substantial fundraising outside of government subsidies and ticket sales. Apparently the track record of the Drama Department did not have the fundraising or audience-raising capacity to survive.
    I’m curious to know what Mr. Lowe’s connection to the Drama Department was.

  3. North Asheville

    Mr. Lowe raises the question of how arts groups, even those within a university, can raise funds when their state subsidies are not sufficient

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