Julia Hotz ’15 analyzes the theatre and dance department’s rebuttal

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By Julia Hotz

This article was written in response to a rebuttal by Professor Patricia Culbert of the Theatre and Dance department.

Let’s break this down one statement at a time:(1) “I would like to offer this rebuttal to the skewed view presented in Julia Hotz’s comments regarding the recent Mountebanks production in the Yulman Theater.”

-Of course my view is “skewed,’ but so is yours! As is the virtue of the opinions section of a student newspaper, this article was based on (or “skewed in the direction of”) the overwhelming student opinion. It is not in the ”News” section, and I do not claim to have done factual research on this issue; rather, it was to express the student view, however “skewed” it might be.

Let us note, however, that your view is equally skewed. In this article, you list the instances that show the theatre department in a favorable light. What you do not list are the ones that don’t: the actions that the department has taken that may have incited such a sentiment that you do not support the Mountebanks.

This indicates that you are either (1) unaware of such actions or are (2) omitting them to make your argument sound better/to make mine sound fallacious (but let’s process that for a second…why would I, a student who has never had an encounter with/has no attachment to the theater department, randomly decide “Hey, you know what?! Why don’t I insult the theater department today?)

But for your sake, let’s assume the former and that you were totally blind to how you may have been unsupportive. Perhaps some research, which you have criticized my absence of, would have been appropriate! Perhaps you could have asked the Mountebanks, or asked me, where or how such a sentiment originated. Instead, this is how you handled the situation:

Fact: Upon my suggestion to meet in person to investigate my allegations and to discuss this article (which was sent via an email to the department), the theater department faculty (all five of them) failed to respond.

Instead, my private correspondence with the department (which I have now made public) was quoted in this article, without my permission.

On the subject of my email (which you can read here in the comment section http://www.concordy.com/article/opinions/may-9-2013/you-are-almost%E2%80%88union%E2%80%88how-school-policies-contradict-its-mission/6615/),

Fact: Let the record also show that Professor Patricia Culbert originally labeled it as an “apology email” throughout her article, as if to imply that I had or have something to apologize for. It was only after the Concordy staff intervened that Professor Culbert removed her label as such. A little skewed though, don’t you think?

(2) “Fact: The Drowsy Chaperone was not the college’s first musical, nor even the first musical `presented by Mountebanks.”

-Fact: As a tour guide for this college, I am instructed to advise that at Union, we “don’t do musicals,” and are instead supposed to talk about all of the wonderful dramatic productions that the theatre department has put on.

In the case you take this as Admissions’ “skewing” your position, I can distinctly remember attending a Theatre Department Information Session last winter and hearing these words “we don’t do musicals” come out of your mouth, despite your claim that “musicals and musical theater have been a significant part of this department’s offerings.”

Though this “no musical” policy often causes great disappointment and confusion on my tours, I have been conditioned to accept this FACT as both a part of my tour routine and as part of my experience at Union.

Thus, when I had gotten wind that there WOULD be a musical after being used to expressing such rhetoric on tours, I assumed, as anyone it my position would, that it was the first one! Perhaps a more accurate characterization would have been “first musical, after being conditioned to a “no musical” policy.”

However, I’d say that this point, as well as the history of “theatre department productions that include music and/or dance” is a rather irrelevant and unimportant point to harp on in your article, though you do so for the majority of it. Considering that you have titled it “In defense of the Theatre and Dance Department” (also note that I never said anything about the Dance Department in my original article), I would expect that your article would focus on defending yourselves against my PRIMARY allegations, which was not that The Drowsy Chaperone was the college’s first musical, but that your reaction to The Drowsy Chaperone was inappropriate and that you should be more encouraging of student initiative in this regard.

(3) “Hotz’s implied challenge to the department to “expand” the musical theater program is simply ludicrous in the face of the broad, eclectic, challenging and varied production history easily viewed on our department webpage.”

– Please tell me what is “simply ludicrous” about a challenge to expand a program that 1) has received enough student support to sell out every night, even with an added show, (2) has gotten attention/offerings from Proctor’s Theater (note that upon THIS offering, the theater department decided to be more cooperative) , and (3) as many of the Drowsy Chaperone cast has indicated, “made [the student’s] college careers, if not their entire life experience”? If you are truly interested in “challenging the imagination/stimulation artistic curiosity” amongst STUDENTS (I can only hope that, as a faculty paid to serve the student body, this is what you meant), then a suggestion to expand is appropriate given all the excitement about this production.

However, as two alumni’s anecdotal evidence indicates in my article’s comment section (http://www.concordy.com/article/opinions/may-9-2013/you-are-almost%E2%80%88union%E2%80%88how-school-policies-contradict-its-mission/6615/), perhaps this is not the case. Perhaps, “people are starting to realize that the shows the department puts on are not for the audience,’ and rather, you might as well forget a production “that isn’t to [the theater department’s] liking and is within their artistic vision.”

(4) ”There is not another student run organization that I can think of that has the kind of faculty and facility support that Mountebanks has enjoyed.”-I will end my rebuttal to the rebuttal on this point, though there is plenty more I could say about this article (and perhaps I will later!). From what I have heard, it is true that the theater department provided SOME DEGREE of support within the Drowsy Chaperone. As I understand it, props were used, costumes were worn and the small theater space was provided. These all constitute what I would call, and what many students would agree, is the “bare minimum” —which simply allows the department to say they support the production.

However, as evidenced by the tremendous student support, alumni confirmation, and your departmental unprofessionalism that my article generated, I can deduce that this is because there is at least SOME truth behind my claim that the theater department has been unsupportive of student initiative. At the risk of losing the “bare minimum” you provide (which I have acknowledged both in this response and in my original article) Mountebanks students would prefer not to confirm or disconfirm my article— and I 100% understand their position…I can only imagine what would happen to them if they openly agreed with such an “unfortunate statement” and supported such a “skewed” view.

Let it be known, however, both for your sake and for all readers, that at the end of the day— I hope you are right! I hope you are proud of the Mountebanks and support them in every way possible. When I see specific instances of such support, and have this confirmed by the Mountebanks, perhaps then I will “retract” my “damaging opinion.’

Until then, however, I will continue to voice my opinion, which (again, as evidenced by both the student support and alumni confirmation), seems to be that of the majority of the students. We pay an extravagant amount to attend Union College on the promise that our faculty will be “dedicated to helping us discover our passion.” For the most part, I have found this promise to be extremely fulfilling; as I mention within my original article, the professors are this college are truly one of a kind and DO go above and beyond to help us find ourselves. I am sure that there are many cases in which the theater department DOES fulfill such a promise— you wouldn’t be of “Union” caliber if you didn’t! As I mention in my email to the department, I have witnessed how you personally (Professor Culbert) have an enormous positive effect on the students, and go above and beyond in your duty, as evidenced by your assistance to the Ramee tour guide program of which I belong to.

Yet as a student, a student who PAYS her tuition to ensure that this promise of faculty dedication is upheld, I feel that I have the right to publicize the instances in which that promise is broken. I feel that, for the sake of my fellow students, I am obligated to ensure that every dollar we pay is well-spent, and that our college experience is most conducive to OUR collective potential.

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