Thursday, May 27, 2021

Final Curtain Call for Dell'Arte's MFA Program

Posted By on Thu, May 27, 2021 at 4:11 PM

According to a press release sent out today, Dell'Arte International School of Physical Theatre is ending its MFA program, the final performances of which were for its Thesis Festival last week, reviewed here. The professional training program classes, however, will return in the fall. The statement lists financial issues and need to focus on "stated goals for the next few years," including a curriculum review, among reasons for the closure of the MFA program, which brought students from around the world to its classrooms and stages.
click to enlarge A performance by the first-year Dell'Arte Commedia students. - PHOTO BY MARK LARSON
  • Photo by Mark Larson
  • A performance by the first-year Dell'Arte Commedia students.
In the announcement, managing Director Alyssa Hughlett describes the shutdown as a "painful and heartbreaking decision." It also says the school will retain its accreditation and may bring the MFA program back in two or three years after review.

Like many theatrical and educational institutions, the past year has been a tumultuous time for Dell'Arte, both in terms of pandemic shutdowns, modified teaching and criticism regarding racial equity.  "The challenges of this last year amid a pandemic, with no PTP class, and ongoing racial equity development, propelled Dell’Arte toward necessary review and expansions of organizational development planning and action," says Dell’Arte Collective Leadership Councilmember Maricela Aceves Wexler in the release.

Read the full press release below:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 27, 2021

Dell’Arte Flagship Professional Training Program to Reopen this Fall

BLUE LAKE, CA – In an effort to strengthen the Dell’Arte International School of Physical Theatre’s flagship Professional Training Program (PTP) and undergo a curriculum review process, the postsecondary school is phasing out the Master of Fine Arts program in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre.

Difficulties related to the three-year program’s financial sustainability before and during the pandemic, paired with Dell’Arte’s stated goals for the next few years, resulted in Dell’Arte leadership making the challenging decision to close the program, school officials said.

“Saying goodbye (for now) to the MFA program will give Dell’Arte the opportunity to focus attention on existing programs, including the one-year PTP, while working on strategic development for future offerings,” said Maricela Aceves Wexler, Dell’Arte Collective Leadership Council member. “This also provides space for Dell’Arte’s faculty to carry out an ongoing pedagogical and curricular ‘review and renew’ process.”

The MFA class of 2021, which is the final cohort of the program, recently completed thesis performances and is slated to graduate in June. The theatre school, which has been in Blue Lake since 1975, boasts more than 1,000 MFA and PTP graduates from six continents, 38 countries and 41 U.S. states.

“Phasing out a program that was the first of its kind in the theater field and higher education in North America was a painful and heart-wrenching decision,”said Managing Director Alyssa Hughlett, who graduated from the program in 2015. “For years, Dell’Arte’s MFA program was the only graduate theatre program of its kind, which allowed students from all over the world (and down the block) to be immersed in the craft of actor-created theatre. Dell’Arte can take pride in the fact that it led the way in this regard and we hope to see another transformative program emerge in a few years’ time.”

Dell’Arte will retain its accreditation and school officials will consider relaunching the MFA program in two to three years, after thoughtful consideration, planning and preparation. 

Dell’Arte has developed a Strategic Action Plan for 2021-2023. The challenges of this last year amid a pandemic, with no PTP class, and ongoing racial equity development, propelled Dell’Arte toward necessary review and expansions of organizational development planning and action, Wexler said.

“We’re looking forward to celebrating this year’s graduates, hosting summer online workshops, welcoming audiences back to the outdoor Rooney Amphitheater for the Baduwa’t Festival and having PTP students back in Dell’Arte’s studios for in-person classes this fall,” she said.

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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

Jennifer Fumiko Cahill

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Jennifer Fumiko Cahill is the arts and features editor of the North Coast Journal.

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