The Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz will replace its traditional model of full-scale stage productions with a series of smaller staged readings this fall, allowing students and faculty to gather and perform while safely adhering to social distancing practices.
The sweeping changes to the Mainstage Production schedule were developed with a twofold mission: To adapt to social distancing guidelines made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to confront recent civil unrest related to systemic racism.
“The reality of the last few months, and particularly the recent events around the nation, are cause for pause, reflection and deep consideration of the roles of both art and education,” Department of Theatre Arts Chair and Professor Ken Goldstein said in a statement. “While theatre has surely changed over time, I believe in the simple power of artists telling stories for an audience. It is now our time to evaluate how to participate and contribute to this evolution, and how we provide valuable and educational experiences.”
New Paltz’s Department of Theatre Arts is reimagining ways of performing at a time when many theatre seasons across the United States have been delayed or cancelled outright.
The new model – replacing four Mainstage Productions with approximately 10 staged readings during the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters – lends itself to use of masks or other personal protective equipment during performances and rehearsals, and makes limited and/or socially distanced audiences a possibility “as conditions demand.”
The department’s plan for 2020-21 is contingent on campus, local, state and federal guidelines allowing for face-to-face classes. Plans can and will change as said guidelines possibly evolve as the semester progresses. Use this link to learn more about SUNY New Paltz’s plan to hold a mix of in-person and online courses in fall 2020.
“I am prioritizing the health and safety of our community over all, and my commitment to maintaining the most current protocols and practices as suggested by our profession is unwavering,” Goldstein said. “Even though fewer people will see the work, the work will continue.”
Despite scaling back the scope of the department’s Mainstage season, this model will allow for more stories to be told than in a typical production year, and will in turn provide meaningful experiential learning opportunities for students.
Titles will be selected to feature underrepresented voices and works from traditionally marginalized populations.
“Our students bring passion, curiosity, insight and personal voice to their work,” Goldstein said. “As they evolve as artists, they seek to create work that reflects their diverse existences and points of view. In turn, we do our best to nurture, challenge, and mentor them as the future of the American Theatre.”
This approach is in accordance with the Department of Theatre Arts’ stated commitment to anti-racism:
“The Department of Theatre Arts at SUNY New Paltz is committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion. But, too often, these words are hollow. Backing up words with action is crucial—now more than ever. We will actively examine our role in our students’ education, the material we teach, and the theatre we produce. We will be reflective, and we will make changes to build an anti-racist community. We will make more room for honest discussions about the climate of the Department. Our growth in the past is not enough to sustain the future. And while our work will be ongoing, we will waste no time in redoubling our efforts. We look towards the ’20/’21 academic year and production season as spaces to take action.”
More information on production titles and performance schedules will be announced soon and published on the Department of Theatre Arts webpage.
Those who are interested in helping to sustain the Department of Theatre’s work and commitment to representation are encouraged to visit our Friends of Theatre page to learn more about how to contribute.