Last year, WSU President Kirk Schulz announced a plan to reduce the $30 million annual spending deficit. The budget cuts include various positions, including retention counselors, who work with struggling students to keep them in school. As if that was not bad enough, Schulz also decided to cut WSU Performing Arts entirely.
"These decisions are painful. They will disrupt lives, and the consequences of eliminating and reducing positions will ripple throughout our community ... But as much as I and members of the leadership team regret the necessity of these actions, they must be taken in order to restore the University’s overall fiscal health.” -President Schluz
The changes to WSU PA would take place at the end of the performance season.
This is it.
This is the end of performing arts at WSU.
There will be no more shows during Moms' Weekends. No more rehearsals late into the night in Daggy. No more students finding who they are on stage, finally able to escape into the world of theater, a world so beautiful and kind and magical.
Let me explain to you what performing arts means to me, what it did for me while I starred in "She Kills Monsters."
WSU PA saved me from myself.
I decided to audition on a whim. I had done theater in high school, I missed it, and I had time in my schedule. Maybe I could get a minor part or help with the stage crew.
I walked into auditions and everything was fairly normal. It was what I expected of an acting audition. And then the director, Ben, told us to close our eyes, imagine our weapons, and fight an opponent. A room full of strangers, outsiders, and outcasts; all of us held our invisible swords, lances, and axes, and we fought — not with our eyes or even our bodies, but our minds and our creative spirits.
I got cast as Agnes and I sobbed. How I managed to convince Ben I could do it, I still do not know. But, somehow, I did, and I loved every damn second of that show. Ben saw something within me that I still cannot see. He gave me a chance and he changed my life forever.
On that stage, I finally got to do what I had dreamed of all my life. I got to fight monsters with a sword with my best friends in a fantasy land. We killed bugbears and the Tiamat. We fought our own monsters that hid within our deepest selves.
I fought my insecurities, my depression, my inner-hatred and self-loathing. I fought to find my place in this world, and for a while, I found it.
I found myself on that dusty stage, standing on top of a giant hexagon, screaming and holding a sword above my head.
Now that I know what it feels like, I will never stop searching for that feeling again.
The thing is, nobody else will get to find that. Because of these budget cuts at WSU, no more students will have the opportunity to learn life lessons from Mary and Ben or to learn who they are in the way only theater can.
I get that budget cuts need to happen. The university is in debt, and things needed to change.
But President Schulz, this is not how you change things.
You all say the budgets are separate, and I get that, but how can you justify hiring new athletic directors and increasing the salaries of coaches? How can we build a new medical program in Spokane when we cannot even keep our programs stable? How can we clear $113.9 million dollars in renovations and more construction?
Yes, state funding comes into play, as well as donations, grants, and the like. But where is the funding for the arts, for helping students, for diversity? Where is the funding to allow low-income students access to counseling? Tell me when a new lab became more important than having enough counselors and medical professionals to actually help the hundreds of students on this campus with serious, crippling mental illnesses. I'll be waiting.
STEM students are important, but so is everyone else.
Stop shutting us down. Stop silencing us. Stop telling us we are not as important as the rest of the "professional" students on campus. Please, just stop.
WSU Performing Arts, I am going to miss you. Thank you for the best year of my life and for all you have done for students and the WSU/Pullman community.
To my PA friends — keep fighting and never stop. I love you all.
WSU PA's last production is "Silent Sky." It will run March 30-31 and April 6-7.