Theater freshmen reflect on ‘carelessness’ in actor sequence
Communications rookie Courtney Sullivan Wu waited months to hear from the drama department about the instructor grading process for the Major’s acting streak.
But when she received instructions for the process on May 17, Sullivan Wu said she was disappointed. Sullivan Wu and several theater students participating in the ranking process this academic year said they were disappointed with the little information given to them about the professors.
“When I think about the fact that this is going to be my education for the next few years, and I understand the weight of it, given what seems to me to be a lack of care about it, it frustrates and worries me,” said Sullivan Wu said.
At the end of their first year at Northwestern, students majoring in Drama, Dance, Performing Studies, or completing the Musical Theater Certificate may participate in the Acting Sequence. The two-year program requires students to rank their preferences for an acting instructor. They take intensive courses with this same instructor and a cohort of students.
Students normally participate in instructor classes and talk about their favorite playing techniques and methods. But in the midst of the pandemic, the process was changed – the department instead offered students an hour of Zoom Q&A with each instructor.
Although the sessions are underway, the theater major’s freshmen have already expressed concerns. Communications recruit Mantra Radhakrishnan expressed disappointment at the lack of action and speed with which the department released information. Radhakrishnan also said that the questions and answers were not enough to know if you would be a match for the instructor.
“(The professors) haven’t been so transparent about what they bring to the table, and I can’t really blame them for it,” Radhakrishnan said. “I’m sure taking a class is more helpful in judging something as physical and active as performance, and that can’t translate as well on Zoom.”
Some freshmen have also criticized the lack of accessibility of professors. Undergraduates are not allowed to email faculty with sequence-related questions, and cannot review Zoom calls because they are not recorded, causing a problem for students whose classes conflict with sessions.
While not taking part in the streak, communications rookie Amy Reyes-Gomez said she was concerned about the department’s handling of the process.
“Seeing how stressed everyone is about the process makes me happy that I wasn’t going through it,” Reyes-Gomez said. “I don’t understand why they expect us to ask them questions when we’re the students, and we still don’t know what we should even ask or what they expect of us.”
Sullivan Wu said the process was carried out with such a lack of communication, “it felt like a heartless process,” a sentiment shared by Radhakrishnan and Reyes-Gomez.
It has been a tumultuous year for students and faculty, said Sullivan Wu, and she said she appreciated the efforts made to foster engagement with instructors. Still, she wished they had taken the time to ask the students what kind of information they thought would prepare them for the ranking so they could make an appropriate decision.
“I would be devastated (if they just gave us) the investigation and expected us to file them without any information, so I’m glad they’re trying to do something, and I recognize the effort.” Sullivan Wu said. “We have such nice teachers and staff in our community, and I just want to get to know them better.”
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