If there's one thing that theatre is not, it's one-dimensional.
"People need to realize that majoring in theatre doesn’t limit one to performing on the stage," said Kathy Barber, KC theatre instructor.
Barber, theatre instructor at KC for 21 years, said she has seen her fair share of actors and actresses move on to bigger and better things, but getting a big-time acting job is not easy.
"Few people will make a living in acting alone," Barber said. "But there are so many opportunities in the theatre business--from designing to management, to marketing, to drafting, to stage combat, to sewing, cutting, and draping, carpentry, electricians, etc.. The job opportunities are endless."
She said she has students come through her door each semester who may be hesitant to major in theatre just because of the stigma that a theatre degree is not as meaningful as other degrees.
“But, this is a mistake,” Barber said. “A well educated theatre professional must know English, music history, art history, architectural history, history in general, mathematics, sociology, psychology, history of religions, historical dance styles, drawing, painting, fashion history, all types of communication skills, lighting, philosophy and so many other disciplines.”
Barber said a theatre major is one of the most demanding majors, in terms of time commitment, on any campus, and very few majors spend as much time honing their crafts as theatre majors do.
"I tell these students about these career areas, and it comforts them and their parents to know that being on the stage is not the only option," Barber said. "There are so many technical and design positions plus business opportunities, not only in educational and professional theatre, but also in the movie industry."
Barber said the KC Theatre program seeks to balance a rigorous production and performance schedule with a substantial and challenging academic experience. The program produces up to four plays per year for the campus and community, she said.
All plays are held in the recently renovated Van Cliburn Auditorium, which is an intimate 300-seat theatre with state-of-the-art light and sound, located on the KC campus. She explained that students with a strong interest in technical theatre have ample opportunities to learn with the same equipment used in larger, more complex venues.
Barber said small theatre class sizes at KC allow students the opportunity for more one-on-one instruction.
“Small classes allow us to give students a great deal of individual attention,” Barber said. “We’ve found that it enhances the probability of the student establishing good study habits and a higher GPA.”
She said students also have immediate opportunities for performance assignments in the college plays, something she said freshman students won’t typically find at four-year universities.
Barber stresses that any theatre program should be diverse one.
“I don’t think most minority students think of opportunities for themselves in the theatre. Again, this is a mistake,” Barber said. “One of the most wonderful things about the theatre is that individuals of all colors, sizes, talents and interests can find a place to be creative in the theatre, and thus, make a future for them.”
Barber said KC encourages all students who have an interest in the arts, humanities and communications to think about a career in the theatre.
“Theatre training yields life lessons that provide self-awareness, raise one’s consciousness, strengthen empathy and sensitivity to the world around you. These are skills that can be applied to any profession,” Barber said.
The theatre department also offers numerous scholarships each year.
“I encourage anyone to give me a call or visit if they are interested in our program,” Barber said. “We do have several scholarships for deserving students each semester.”
She said all students who graduate from the two-year associate degree program will be able to hone their skills in acting, voice, movement and fencing. They will also know theatre history, design, stagecraft, scenery, costuming, lighting, props and makeup.
“ Theatre students at KC share the excitement of theatre production and studies with an experienced faculty in a wonderful theatre setting,” Barber said. “We teach academic and performance skills through a comprehensive program. The goal is to provide students the greatest opportunity for success at the university level.”
||"But what people have to realize is that there are so many opportunities in the theatre business--- from designers, to management, to marketing, to drafting. The job opportunities are endless."
KC Thatre Instructor
One success story Barber mentioned was a student named Robert Martin who is now a costume designer in New York City.
"He has made a good living as a costume designer and stays very busy," Barber said. Dennis Draper, who was also here at the same time as Robert, is now the Director of Events for the Alley Theatre in Houston.
Another former student whom Barber said has been highly successful is Neal Medlyn.
I was told that Neal needs a bodyguard now when he performs in Germany," Barber said. "He is a major performance artist in New York and performs in Europe as well. Medlyn was a student at KC in the mid-1990s. We have many, many students from the east to the west coast who are making their livings in the theatre.”
Joe Watson, a 1970’s KC graduate is a stage manager/producer on New York, Barber said. There is a KC graduate from the 1950’s who received an academy award for costume design.
“There are KC theatre students teaching and working in major universities across the country and in high schools all over the state of Texas,” Barber said. “We are so proud of all of our former students who have done well in the theatre business.”
"It's so exciting to see students who make names for themselves in our business," Barber said.
But Barber said it’s equally as rewarding to learn about former students succeeding in other professional areas where they have been able to apply their theatre educations, such as the classroom, the legal profession, business sales, marketing, etc.
Barber said she had a former theatre student, Anton Alvey, call her just the other day.
“He expressed his gratitude for the time he spent in the theatre program at KC and said that he was just about to graduate from Temple University in Philadelphia and will be entering law school soon. But first, he will teach English for a year in Japan,” Barber said. “All of the theatre skills he learned here at KC will serve him well.”