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MailTribune.com
  • Curtain comes down on all but three RCC theater arts courses

    Acting classes have been canceled; three improv classes are the only survivors
  • Officials at Rogue Community College have canceled three acting classes at Medford's Riverside campus for fall term after too few students enrolled for the classes to make them financially worthwhile.
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  • Officials at Rogue Community College have canceled three acting classes at Medford's Riverside campus for fall term after too few students enrolled for the classes to make them financially worthwhile.
    The school had previously considered shutting down the Medford campus theater program altogether because of budget cuts, but instead decided to offer some classes if enrollment reached 20 students per class, a number that allowed the classes to break even, administrators said.
    "That's real disappointing," said Burt Eikleberry, a local theater advocate who tried to convince RCC board members last spring not to cut the classes.
    The college's website Tuesday listed classes for Acting 1, 2 and 3 as canceled at the Riverside campus. The only remaining theater courses are Improvisation 1, 2 and 3.
    In each case, the classes meet with the same instructor during the same time period but offer three levels of curriculum.
    The school also decided to end theater rehearsal and performance classes at the end of last year.
    Eikleberry said he had heard a week before classes started that enrollment wasn't yet high enough to keep the acting classes running, but he hadn't heard any specific numbers.
    "They were saying they were needing some more students to get to 20," said Eikleberry, who is a retired high school drama and English teacher. "For some reason, 20 was the number."
    The scheduled classes were to be taught by theater instructor John Cole, who had no other courses listed on RCC's fall schedule.
    Cole has taken a leave for this year and will not be teaching, according to Margaret Bradford, RCC marketing director.
    While researching the theater program earlier this year, Eikleberry said that 170 students took theater classes during the 2011-12 school year, generating an approximate tuition revenue of $78,000.
    The school had announced that cutting all the classes would have saved between $80,000 and $100,000 annually, in part by not renewing a faculty contract.
    The school decided to discontinue the theater courses and other low-enrollment classes in response to a projected $1.5 million budget shortfall for the current biennium.
    The school's administration and Cole said in May that they expected enough students to enroll to keep the classes open.
    Bradford said only 14 students had enrolled in the three-level class, prompting the cancellation.
    The classes would have been taught in the college's new black box theater, which opened last fall and staged its first production in May.
    Without the three acting courses, the theater will be used for music and theater classes for about seven hours per week.
    The space also is used for a handful of fitness and recreation classes.
    School officials said in May that even without theater courses, the building would be used for music classes and performances or other community events.
    Officials said they planned to work with Southern Oregon University and community groups to consider other theater arts opportunities.
    Reach reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.
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