Back in the day, pre-BB (BBB if you prefer), the MAC Arts Center was characterized by the presence of thriving faculty-led ensembles in a variety of disciplines. They worked well because they were run, surprisingly enough by faculty members, whose combination of artistic prowess and knowledge of education, meant that students and the community benefited from their existence. Oh, and I don’t think they were expensive to run either.
With the ascendance of the regime in 2009, these ensembles, along with other initiatives championed by faculty members (Community Education Farm anyone?) did not prosper. No need to belabor the sordid nature of their departure here. The last to go was Buffalo Theatre Ensemble, which had valiantly soldiered on through the refurbishment of the MAC by setting up a temporary stage in the commissary of the K building. (Sidenote: the New Philamonic was forced to cancel its season in exile because of drop-off in attendance.)
How ironic then that, when the grand reopening of the MAC occurred with Jim Belushi amid all that pomp and circumstance, a former COD student whose name is attached to scholarships for theatre students at COD, the curtain was lowered on BTE.
The community and former students ensured that the BTE did not go gently into the COD night. A grassroots campaign to bring BTE back was begun. A petition drive was started. Letters to board members were written. At the August 20 board meeting, the public comment section was dominated by a series of moving testimonials mostly from former students. The petition, which by now had over 1,000 signatures, was handed over. The board had taken note (in stark contrast to boards of former years) and requested a presentation on BTE. This was to have occurred at last Thursday’s regular meeting but it was postponed because of the potential distraction that would be caused by that other little bit of business. However, it is on this Monday, September 28th, at 7 PM in the “Living Room.”
I have focused on BTE among the ensembles because, a, I have had intimate experience with it during my years as a theatre student and, b, it the ensemble under the spotlight right now. I would like to think that we all support the rebirth of faculty-driven activities across the curriculum, not just in the arts, and have an administration in place that supports them unreservedly.