Richard Jarman CODFA Vice President
It’s winter 1996. I am part of a theatre group in Naperville. One of the members floats the proposal that we take some acting classes at COD to hone our craft. So I screwed my courage to the sticking point and introduced myself to the academic rigors of College of DuPage. One of the requirements of taking the Acting classes was going to see shows and write critiques on them. Buffalo Theatre Ensemble allowed us to fulfill at least part of this requirement.
But it was much more than that. An example: our instructor, Madonna Freeburn, was cast in the hysterically funny, and not-at-all weird, Michael Frayn farce Noises Off. So we got a sneak preview of a show in a late stage of rehearsal. Nothing like watching your instructor doing her stuff in a professional setting to reinforce credibility. Sure we had some adventures going to see storefront shows in Chicago, but none had quite the impact that going to BTE did.
Last month we listened to the testimonials of many former students and other community members. You received a petition with more than a thousand signatures. You received letters. In response to this upwelling of support, there will be a presentation tonight about BTE.
I don’t know what you will hear but I would surmise that important criteria are, the impact on education and students, the impact on the community and the costs involved to make all that happen. How many students could be affected by BTE and how to count them? My argument would be anyone enrolled in a theatre class. We have almost 3,000 students in chemistry per year, yet I am confident that I could count on the fingers of one hand the number who become professional chemists. That’s not the point: they are chemistry students.
While we strive for data-driven decision making, there is a role for the intangibles: those factors less easily quantified, and metrics should not necessarily be applied uniformly across the panoply of institutional activities.
Consider the radio station. It’s impact on education? There is no credit program in radio here. It has proved a steady drain on college resources. Yet it has perceived value in the community. That’s okay.
Friday concerts at our own Ravinia by Lake DeShane are immensely popular. While fake Beatles and Abba impersonators are not for me, the community likes them and they generate good PR. Yet they generate no direct revenue. That’s okay.
Some programs make money, while others lose. Some programs are big and others small. Provided the collective whole is sustainable that is what matters. It often comes down to an innate sense of what is right. I strongly believe that bringing BTE back is the right thing to do and the community is overwhelmingly in support of this happening.