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Revival of Chemeketa Theater in the works

 

A view from the balcony of the Chemeketa auditorium. Students may be able to use this space for performances once again. Photo by Saul Rodriguez

A view from the balcony of the Chemeketa auditorium. Students may be able to use this space for performances once again. Photos by Saul Rodriguez

By Maxwell Romprey

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”

These words written by Shakespeare may seem melodramatic, but in the case of the theater program at Chemeketa, they ring true.

Since 2011, Chemeketa has been without a theater program to provide for-credit classes in acting or technical theater to students, or to produce plays with students to be exhibited for the public in performance.

Terry Rohse, the coordinator of the Chemeketa auditorium, was involved with the theater program when he arrived at the college in 2001, and placed the blame on economic recession for causing the program to be cut in the first place. “When the economy was in a huge slump, we went after the trades and technical students,” he said. “That’s what we needed because that’s what the community needed.

“We drifted away from the arts, and now we’re gonna come back to the arts.”

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catwalk area for theater lighting

Proof of this shift can be found in Chemeketa’s music program. The music program was similarly inactive for many years, but as of this year is once again available to students.

Although the music program has been successfully revived, the theater remains a work in progress.

Two theater classes are currently in development: Acting I and Theatre Appreciation. Chemeketa instructor Jay Gipson-King is writing the curriculum for the courses.

Laura Mack, the chair of visual and performing arts program, said that approval of these courses is pending review by the college’s Curriculum Committee, which meets in November. If approved, the earliest these classes would be available in the Chemeketa course catalog would be Summer or Fall of next year.

Beyond the pending approval of these two initial courses, Mack has broader goals in mind for theater at Chemeketa. “We can’t bring the whole program back until we have a location to house it,” she said.

Mack said that a dedicated building is important to the return of the program, because when the existing auditorium on campus was being used for classes and performances, “it wasn’t very useful, it was too spread out, there weren’t enough places for storage, there weren’t enough dedicated classrooms,” and that currently “the auditorium gets used for multiple things,” she said.

However, Rohse believes that current auditorium space is sufficient enough for the time being.

“What we’ll end up having to do is what we did when I first came here fifteen years ago,” Rohse said. “The theater became unavailable to outside events, unless they could happen during the day, for a month every term.” He said that this time was set aside so students could mount a full play or musical for each term of the year.

“We’ve got a new sound system put in, we’ve got lighting we’re working on, everything’s ready to go,” Rohse said. “We just need the performers to come in and do it.”

Regardless of where a theater program would be housed on the campus, both Mack and Rohse agree on the importance of having a theater program available to students.

“Theater teaches collaboration,” Mack said. “The effects of working within such a close-knit team is an incredible benefit for students as they go into the workforce.”

Rohse said that local business community members are eager to see the return of the program.

“Business leaders were coming to us and saying: ‘we’re missing these theater people because theater people know how to meet deadlines,” he said. “They know how to be dedicated to the program that they’re in, they know that they have to be on time, they know that they have to be prepared when they come in.’ That stuff is all gone now.”

The Curriculum Committee meeting, where Jay Gipson-King’s initial two classes will be reviewed for approval, will occur on November 3rd at 3:00 PM, in room 112 of building 9 on the Salem campus.

Auditorium coordinator Terry Rohse working in the control booth

Auditorium coordinator Terry Rohse working in the control booth