The drama department at College of Notre Dame changed this year to allow students to
concentrate on performance or general theater.

Most students expect to go on in the performance area. Acting classes were limited, focus was on production. Advanced acting courses were available, but only as electives.

“Potential students found that rather unsatisfactory. We proposed to our curriculum committee a performance emphasis which allows them to opt out of a couple of the design courses but requires them to take all of the performance courses,” said Mike Elkins, drama department head.

The department has classes like Introduction to the Theater, Beginning Acting and Make-up under general education classes for the department.

Major requirements include stage lighting and electrics, directing and costume development and design. The curriculum is set each year depending on the students’ needs for that year,” said Elkins, who administers two full-time faculty members, coordinates classes and manages the theater.

Training is largely practical. “Its done under the philosophy that he students who are learning how to build and design sets, hang lights and do sound and scene shifts are all going to be the ones who are going to use those skills operating the campus theater for productions and rental groups,” said Elkins.

“From the time a young person arrives here to the time they graduate four years later we tell them this is a very hands-on program, and in every technical course they take they will do a lab. Costume, lighting, scenic design, graphic arts management all involve operating the theater in some capacity.”

Not all programs are set up like CND’ s. “There are places where when you walk in the door and head to the shop and design area or you head to the acting studio. We make all of our students do it all,” said Elkins.

“The reason is we find it’s excellent preparation for what we hope our students will do after they leave us. Several have gone onto pursue high school teaching credentials, so they need to do everything.”

College of Notre Dame graduate Laurie Sigelman is working on her teaching credential, but already instructing at Carlmont High School. Sigelman helps out with the department’s annual production of A Christmas Carol.

“People tease me that I haven’t left the nest, but I have, and I’ve come back, realizing how good this place is and I like it so much that I go out and recruit students.”

Currently teaching drama and English, she hopes to go onto a master’s degree in English with a focus in dramatic literature.

“I want to be teaching at CND because I like what this school stands for and the department and the individual attention.” Sigelman’s father received a master’s from CND, and she was slated to attend school here when her family moved to San Diego. “I always knew I was coming back,” she said.

The department has 15 students as majors and Elkins would like to see that number double. The department has been sending students to competitions for the last two years.

“We’ve started competing as an associate in the American College Theater Festival, a na­tional theater festival sponsored by the Kennedy Center. Last year we entered The Crucible, our fall production, and had and had three students nominated for the Irene Ryan acting competitions.”

Elkins is always alert for ner­vous parents who see their child chasing a wraith. “When I meet parents for the first time, the first thing I say after I welcome them is ‘Understand how concerned I am for you as a parent, because I am a parent too, about whether or not your son or daughter has a real hope of making a decent living and having a decent life. I’m here to tell you ‘yes,’” he said.

This article was written by William Cracraft/Freelance News Service and first published in 1998 in the 75th Anniversary Edition tabloid published by Alameda News Paper Group. Any accompanying photos were also taken by William Cracraft. It is reproduced here as a portfolio piece.


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