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A Double Feature of COC Theater Programs

Two new theater degree programs at College of the Canyons.

Posted: February 18, 2008 8:25 p.m.
Updated: April 19, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The opportunities for theater students at College of the Canyons are growing. The Performing Arts Center and Black Box Theater have given students ways to showcase their talents while offering the Santa Clarita Valley a means to appreciate the arts.

At the school, nearly 400 students are part of the theater department, and the 27 courses - ranging from business to costume design to writing and directing - currently offered on the Valencia community college's campus allow them to understand and study theater.

Most recently, the college announced that it has added the two new degree programs of general theater and performance theater as a way to offer assistance to the students hoping to pursue theater as a career.

The Goal
The idea behind the two degrees is to allow students who are planning to pursue professions associated with the art to focus and understand theater.

"It's to create a path for them to follow," Susan Hinshaw, chair of COC's theater department said.

David Stears, adjunct professor for the theater department, sees the programs as valuable to a student's education at COC.

"I think they are going to create more opportunity for a focused experience at COC," he said.

He said, ultimately, the programs create a track for students to follow, whether they want to go into the professional world of theater or continue their education.

"It will be a solid, well-rounded foundation in either," Stears, an adjunct professor for eight years, said.

Although both degrees are similar in requirements, the performance degree, which Hinshaw believes has been more popular with students, requires more performance classes.

The Knowledge
With the two degrees, the concept is to create a well-rounded education so students can not only understand the historical and theoretical aspects of theater, but the everyday lessons of how to audition and find an agent.

For example, on a theoretical level, by the time theater students are finished at COC, they are able to differentiate the various movements in theater history and critically examine how those past movements are reflected in today's society and entertainment; delineate the role of the theater professional in theatrical and non-theatrical professions; and examine and evaluate the basic concepts of the dramatic form in entertainment settings or large public events.

But at the same time, the department offers real-world lessons through its classes, which is something that Hinshaw believes is an important advantage to COC's theater program.

For instance, the department offers classes like auditioning for film, stage and camera, that would be considered "unusual" for a college because the courses focus on the business side of theater. However, Hinshaw views it as something needed to create well-rounded students.

Additionally, Hinshaw points to the venues, such as the Performing Arts Center and Black Box Theater, on the COC campus, as other resources.

These locations serve as a way for students to understand a variety of theater styles.

"They get all types of performance opportunities in different kinds of venues," she said, noting the range of shows that include edgy contemporary, children's theater, women's theater, solo theater and musical theater.

The experienced faculty members and professors also bring knowledge to the department that can be passed onto the students. Although Hinshaw is the only full-time faculty member, there are 10 adjunct professors who each bring a background in a variety of concepts, ranging from acting to costume design and makeup.

These skills can then be translated beyond the College of the Canyons campus through additional education at a four-year university or by working in the Los Angeles entertainment industry.

That's because Hinshaw said the education will help with earning not only positions within the theater community, but also in other fields of entertainment, art and education programming and even amusement parks and attractions.

Coming Soon
But the growth of COC's theater department is not stopping anytime soon.

Hinshaw said there are plans to create technical, directing and musical theater programs in the coming year. Certificates in theater tech, theater performance, management and production are also planned. Additionally, the staff will be growing with the hiring of a technical person and another staff member in the spring to address the needs of the expanding department.

New classes are also planned for the community college as Hinshaw said they will be adding a voice over, cold reading and scene study class shortly.

Those courses are once again opportunities for students to prepare for the work force.

"They're learning to be artists of the theater," she said.

On Feb. 23, College of the Canyons will be hosting the fourth annual "High School Theater Festival," which will feature high school students and theater students in contemporary, comedy and dramatic scenes of Shakespeare.

Additionally, COC's theater department has three plays set for this semester that include "The Hobbit" and the New Works Festival in May. There will also be a showing of one-act plays in March and in April.


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