Is it curtains for A-B Tech drama classes? Students set to rally Monday to stop cuts

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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Here’s the note that’s circulating:


It was announced on Monday, October 7th that after the Spring 2014 semester, A-B Tech will no longer be offering any classes in the Drama department. Besides being a huge blow to the arts here at A-B Tech, we feel this is a major detriment to the communities of Asheville and Western North Carolina. In an area where entertainment is a viable field of employment, in a town that has been ranked numerous times over the last decade as a top arts destination, our “Community’s College, Dedicated to Student Success,” has announced the closure of a program that offers students a variety of valuable skills, not only in theatre-specific realms like acting, script analysis, scenic design and construction, but also in critical “soft skills” like time management, organization, creative problem-solving, and people skills such as collaboration and networking. These are skills prospective employers rank highly, and A-B-Tech’s Drama department has spent the last decade offering such skills in a safe, affordable, welcoming environment that offers not only education, but support and community. The disappearance of this resource from our area will be felt most strongly at the college, but will echo in ripples throughout Asheville and the surrounding areas.

Please make your support for this invaluable program known. There will be a meeting on campus, in Elm 230, with A-B Tech Dean of Arts and Sciences, Dr. Beth Stewart, THIS FRIDAY, October 11, 2013, at 2:00 p.m. Please call to register for this appointment at either (828) 398-7651 or (828) 398-7652. If you are unable to attend the meeting, please take a few minutes to write and send and email regarding this decision. Dr. Stewart’s email address is [email protected]. You may want to copy A-B Tech President, Dr. Hank Dunn, at [email protected].

Also, and this is especially important, GET THE WORD OUT! Forward this information to anyone with an interest in the future of education and the arts in Asheville and Western North Carolina. Ask them to do their part, be it attending the meeting, or writing letters, or making phone calls. The more people we can reach with this, the better. Please let our “Community’s College” know that our Community SUPPORTS A-B Tech Drama!

Thank you,

Alison Tippins

President, A-B Tech Drama Club

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Theatre Wonk October 15, 2013

    Thank you. Glad you got good training at UNCA and good follow up hands on experience.

  2. Jason W. October 12, 2013

    Theater requires hands-on learning, not schools. If you want to learn technical theater, volunteer with a theater company, if you want to act or direct, start your own company, if you want to write or know about it’s history, read plays. Don’t waste you money on classes.

    1. Theatre Wonk October 13, 2013

      It’s interesting how people think it takes no training, study, or practice to act, direct, design, or write for the theatre. Because theatre appears to use the tools of everyday life – speaking, walking around, conversing, handling everyday objects – there’s no skill involved. This demeans those who have studied and developed their skills. Try substituting dance or music in Jason W’s equations and see how it works: “Becoming a ballet dancer requires hands-on learning, not schools. If you want to learn how ballet is done, volunteer with a ballet company, if you want to dance, start your own ballet company, if you want to choreograph or know about ballet’s history, watch videos. Don’t waste your money on classes.” “Playing classical music requires hands-on learning, not schools. If you want to learn how music works, volunteer with an orchestra or a chamber music ensemble, if you want to play the violin or conduct a musical group, start your own company, if you want to compose music or know about it’s history, listen to CDs. Don’t waste your money on classes.”

      1. Jason W. October 14, 2013

        You can’t compare the training required to do ballet or classical music and the training required to do theater. Dance and Music have very specific, and defined styles, rules, and techniques. It takes years to learn to do things. Theater is more akin to visual art. It’s more subjective, and with less steadfast rules. You learn by watching, experimenting, and participating. I could teach you how to hang a light or build a flat in an hour or less. You can read a play in around two hours. You could read books by Stanislavski, Adler, Meisner if you want tools for being a better actor. But none of these things will stick without hands-on learning.
        Speaking as a theater artist who has his BA in Drama, the best theater training I’ve gotten so far was “on-the-job training” by working with various theaters around town. What I’m trying to say instead of trying to convince a school that a theater curriculum is worth saving, take your money elsewhere. Use the $1000 dollars you’re going to spend on classes and use it to do/see/create actual theater. By doing this are you going to become Julie Taymor, Kenneth Brannagh, Jennifer Tipton, or Tony Kushner? Probably not, but let’s face it, it’s very unlikely that a BA or whatever is going to do that for you either. You will, however, be learning theater by doing theater.

        1. Theatre Wonk October 14, 2013

          Jason W, you have a point about visual art being subjective and not requiring any training or having any styles, rules and techniques. Would you mind letting us know where you got your BA in theatre?

          1. Jason W October 15, 2013

            UNCA. Granted I learned much about theater while I was there, especially lighting design, and directing, I still feel the bulk of my training came from working directly on shows with ACT, MPP, and other theater companies around town.

  3. Looking at Higher Ed October 10, 2013

    Educational institutions evaluate the need and importance of a program by the market demand for the courses. If drama classes at A-B Tech did not make high numbers, they are on the chopping block. What were the enrollment numbers? On the other hand, a “club” could be funded through student activity fees and, for a drama group, through ticket sales to their productions and fundraising activities. Has this group explored those options?
    Sorry to say, but the closing of this program will not ripple through the arts community of Asheville and WNC, which has a plethora of theatre offerings, unless attendance by the community was huge. In education and the arts, as everything else, it’s supply and demand and a market-driven economy.

    1. Big Al October 11, 2013

      “In education and the arts, as everything else, it’s supply and demand and a market-driven economy.”

      Capitalist-Imperialist Blasphemy!

      Education and Arts are sacrosanct.

      When the revolution comes, you and your kind will be firmly reeducated.

  4. Murphy October 9, 2013

    What about a “partnership” with other schools in the area to allow AB-techies to take drama (or other offerings that ABT doesn’t provide) at UNCA or Warren Wilson (or Mars Hill) and transfer the credits back…

    1. Theatre Wonk October 11, 2013

      Couldn’t A-B Tech students take drama classes at UNCA if they wanted to, at instate rates, as visiting students? What’s happened to the drama program there? Their last play seemed like a high school offering.

      Warren Wilson might present problems of high tuition and transportation.


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