The Student Theatre Cooperative (STC) at USD’s theatre department and the Diversity in Media & Entertainment Organization (DiME) are working together to create an atmosphere of diversity and inclusiveness in the department.
Following problems with a lack of female roles in the past, the two student organizations hope to address the issue of diversity. This issue is becoming relevant in campuses across the country. In recent years, the gender imbalance in USD’s theatre productions has garnered attention around campus. STC, a student group dedicated to getting students involved in the dramatic arts, has decided to tackle the issue head-on in this cooperation with DiME.
Micci Abbott, senior sports marketing & media major, opinion columnist for The Volante and president of DiME, founded DiME in the fall semester of 2017 to promote diversity in the student media and theatre departments in USD’s campus. Abbott said that she sees STC as trying to shine a spotlight on the issue.
“I’ve attended STC meetings and events since I started at USD and it’s clear that the organization is dedicated to making the theatre exactly what it’s supposed to be: a place for everyone,” Abbott said.
STC secretary Isaac Otterman said he’s optimistic about potential upcoming projects with DiME.
“I hope that both the STC and the theater department can help them pursue their goal,” he said.
According to a 2017 Volante interview with Raimondo Genna, chair of the department of theatre, between 2011 and 2017, 54 percent of lead roles were played by men, while only 38 percent of lead roles were played by women with 66 percent of the entire theatre department made up of women.
Abbott said her initial idea when DiME first started collaborating with STC was to find a production reflective of the gender makeup of the department.
“One of my main goals was to be able to sponsor a show for STC that had role opportunities reflective of the demographics of the theatre department. Equal opportunities for all students to express themselves and connect to roles is how we ensure each theatre student gets the most out of their education.”
Otterman said that some of the theatre department’s upcoming productions will showcase a majority of women in the cast.
“’These Shining Lives,” which is being rehearsed right now has a cast of four women and two men, there are more women in the department and there are more roles for women,” Otterman said.
Jackson Whitaker, a junior musical theatre major, said that having a more diverse cast and productions that feature a diverse cast, is very important moving into the future.
“It’s something that’s long overdue…I think that we’re taking steps, but there are so many changes that need to be made to create a more diverse theatre experience,” Whitaker said.
STC’s purpose is to help individual students with their acting and performing abilities, but according to Otterman, it also serves as a vehicle for creative expression and exploring new opportunities in the performing arts. He also said that it is a way for students to express their opinions and concerns on any topic, including diversity.
Otterman said that projects with DiME are in the works and he hopes the theatre department, along with the two organizations, can add their voice to this very controversial issue.
“I think that STC and the theatre department, along with the help of DiME has the potential to create more opportunities, and I hope to see the fruits of those ideas come hopefully before the end of the year,” Otterman said.
With more attention focused on gender inclusiveness and diversity on a national level, Whitaker said that it’s important to keep these issues in mind, not only for the theatre but to all people who are politically active.
“We have, over the next two years, a chance to make our voices heard about the problems this country faces with diversity, and I think the theater plays a big role in that,” Whitaker said.