Closing Night

The drama department will minimize its classes to only one Beginning and Intermediate class this upcoming school year. With the increase of influence from digital media, performing arts such as theatre have taken a toll as they are not available on demand at the time or location convenient to the viewers. On campus, free advertised drama events do not receive much attention and draw only in small crowds. Popular apps among students such as Tiktok and Instagram provide convenient platforms to both watch and perform at any place and time, so there is little motivation for students to engage with on-campus performances. Digital media, which continues to evolve with modern appeals, dominates the over 2500-year-old Western Drama and Theatre.

Campus Drama Teacher Dr. John Rustan Ph.D. provides his opinion on the decreased interest in drama.

“If students can’t be enticed to come see plays and live performances even for free, it is hard to get them excited and interested in participating in theatre,” said Rustan.

If students can’t be enticed to come see plays and live performances even for free, it is hard to get them excited and interested in participating in theatre.”

— John Rustan

Digital influence is not the only threat the performing arts face: the increased focus on four-year university prep has put a dent in enrollment as well. With theatre sharing a credit credential with the language credit—a requirement for university—the slot of schedule dedicated to the elective is filled. Starting in Junior High School, parents push their kids to take academic classes, not allowing them to take part in performing arts classes, for the course does not help them in the global university competition.  

Rustan, who has been teaching drama for 26 years (15 years at Colleges and Universities and 11 years here) elaborates on his time with the drama department on campus.

“I came in 2008. There were three classes – two Beginning and one Intermediate and Advanced class.  Then there was an overall drop in enrollment reducing the beginning classes to just one for the next year. After that, we’ve had two beginning drama classes every year. In my time here, we’ve done 23 major productions: 30 original student-written plays, two of Shakespeare’s classic comedies, one Greek Tragedy, many classic contemporary comedies, and a musical. We have had the highly-successful 24-hour Play Festival annually for the past four years. We also mount an awards show extravaganza each year in May. This year we went on a field trip to see Sweeney Todd at Sonoma State. We have routinely done shows and workshops at Kenilworth each year in order to gather interest from students there to come do drama at Casa,” said Rustan.

Junior Lily Gutierrez, an Advanced-acting student, gives her perspective on the small upcoming class sizes.

“The Junior class this year is really big, and the Senior class when the current Junior class was freshmen was really big. We’re hoping that history will repeat itself, and that next year when we’re seniors, there’ll be a big freshman group,” said Gutierrez.

The future of the drama department that hones students skills of, as put by Rustan, “confidence, discipline, creative energy, and initiative” while also providing “lifetime memories, fun, [and] collaboration and a sense of family,” remains unsteady. The numbers of the drama department may bounce back as they did in 2008, or they may continue to shrink due to the new influences of social media and extreme university competition.