New online Master’s program to enhance theatre skills

Published 12 August 2008

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Theatre teachers and practitioners have a unique opportunity to enhance their skills and qualifications through a new online Master’s degree program being offered by the University of New England.

The Master of Applied Theatre Studies program, to begin in Semester One 2009, builds on UNE’s 20 years of experience in delivering undergraduate Theatre Studies courses by distance education. UNE is a world leader in this regard, and the new postgraduate program is the only one of its kind. It can be studied entirely online from anywhere in the world.

“Students will come with an undergraduate degree, and practical theatre experience gained either as part of – or separately from – that undergraduate program,” said Professor Adrian Kiernander, Convener of Theatre Studies at UNE. “Our aim is to enable such people to enhance their skills in ways that will help them to be better practitioners or teachers of theatre.”

“Our off-campus undergraduate courses – culminating in the Bachelor of Theatre Studies program that began this year – have been very successful,” Professor Kiernander said, “and last year earned us a citation from the Federal Government’s Carrick Institute for ‘sustained commitment and innovation in devising and providing realworld learning experiences for off-campus students in the practical study of theatre’.

“For the new Master’s program we’re developing electronic tools that will enable students to do the work of analysis, and then communicate the results of that analysis, totally online. We want them to be able to share their knowledge as widely as possible.”

The practical focus of the course is emphasised by the fact that it can be based on a theatre project – such as a professional production or a school play – in which the student is involved as an actor, director or designer. “All the student’s research, analysis and recording can be tied in to that project in a very focused way,” Professor Kiernander said. “They will get credit for their practical work as well as for their academic research and analysis.”

Taking one year full-time (or its part-time equivalent) to complete, the Master of Applied Theatre Studies program includes dramaturgical research techniques, theatre history, and techniques of script and character analysis and the recording of performances. While there are no compulsory residential schools attached to the program, students will have the option of attending some on-campus classes and residential schools if they wish to.

“We’ve identified a need for a postgraduate course like this to be taught externally,” Professor Kiernander said, “particularly in NSW where, with the rapid expansion of drama teaching in secondary schools, there are a lot of teachers who want to upgrade their knowledge and enhance their qualifications. And for theatre professionals, it will provide a more scholarly background to their practice.”

For more information about the Master of Applied Theatre Studies degree, contact Professor Kiernander on (02) 6773 3755.