CLU’s Theatre Department Lacks Accessibility

It seems that everyone from students to staff are bursting open their doors and calling you to join something during freshman year at California Lutheran University.

Heard about Math Club? Come to this RA Event! You can be a double major! Be involved! Be involved! Be involved!

But one part of campus was surprisingly quiet, the Theatre Arts Department.

“I was lucky and got involved right away,” said Amanda Souza, a non-theatre major or minor.“But even after that, it was hard to know what was going on.”

A college-level theatre department has the right to be selective, of course. But the issue is not that the Theatre Department doesn’t cast other majors in shows. The issue is that other majors aren’t given a chance to audition. All Cal Lutheran students should have the opportunity to audition for shows, no matter their major.

As someone who has been involved in theatre most of my life, the quietness from the department didn’t stop me. I signed up for theatre club, watched its Facebook page and looked at the Hub events regularly to make sure I didn’t miss anything.

Cricket, cricket.

Unless you’re a theatre major or minor, you wouldn’t know that the only place it posts information about auditions is a bulletin board inside of the Black Box theatre. Otherwise, you’d have to go to the theatre arts community class to hear updates.

So, once you figure out that it’s posted inside the theatre you walk in and check every couple of days? Sounds easy enough. But think about it. Theatres aren’t typically somewhere you just waltz into (unless you’re in a show). Without windows, you don’t know if you’d be disrupting a rehearsal, or even a performance. There are multiple unnamed doors to choose from as well, which makes it even more uncomfortable to look. I’ve practically lived in theatres, and even I felt this hesitation.

Last year, out of sheer luck I found out about auditions for the musical the day before they started. A piece of paper on the back door of the Black Box theatre about a dance rehearsal before auditions was the only announcement to the public. Tomorrow? OK, let’s do it.

Trying to audition for the musical as a non-theatre major was like running a marathon in high-heels. As unprepared as I was, I had to drop everything and run.

But I found the odds were even more stacked against non-theatre majors than I thought.

I scoured the internet for the audition materials and hit gold. I clicked on the ‘Current Students’ tab of the Cal Lutheran Theatre website and then was prompted with a box asking for a password.

I had to know a password to audition?

I called the Theatre Department and explained my case. They never got back to me.

Cal Lutheran’s mission is for students to pursue their purpose inside and outside of the classroom. By making it next to impossible for non-theatre majors and minors to audition, the theatre department contradicts the mission statement of the university.

Theatre, and the arts as a whole, are so important for everyone to experience. The National Endowment of the Arts found that youth in a low socioeconomic status who participate in the arts have, on average, a higher academic achievement, higher career goals and are more civically engaged. Although the students of Cal Lutheran may not fit the study, it speaks to the power of the arts.

It’s not only about the benefits for the non-theatre major students, either. The Cal Lutheran Theatre Department would benefit from other majors being a part of the cast.

“I think we come in with a different perspective on the script. We aren’t living and breathing acting, and so sometimes it’s easier to be more truthful and real with our lines,” Souza said.

Big change isn’t necessary. Moving the bulletin board with audition postings outside the theatre so that anyone could walk by and see the opportunities would be a huge improvement.

The Theatre Arts Department at Cal Lutheran has great programs and it has every right to be selective with who they cast. You don’t need to put us in, Coach. We just need a chance to try out for the team.

Laura Willits
Featured Writer