Theater head opens up

By Andrew Coan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Albert Tucci is head of the UA Theater Arts Department. While he is not the most well-known person on campus, he is certainly one of the most passionate about his job, his department, and the mission that accompanies his position. He is dedicated to the theater, and to making sure that the students under his care get the best training possible. But what does the head of theater arts do, and how does he help shape the policy, and productions under his care? Stay tuned to find out as Albert Tucci talks about his job, his department, and the human condition.

Mutato: How long have you been the head of the Theater Arts Dept, and what exactly do you do?

Albert Tucci: It's a great question. I've been here since July of 1991. I'm the head of the department, which means that I have all of the regular and normal academic responsibilities as any other department head at the university. I'm also the producer for everything that happens as far as our season subscription is concerned.

M: So you take care of all of the marketing per se?

AT: We have a marketing and development person, but that person works with me. So it's marketing and I work with the faculty on season selections, and hiring guest artists when that's appropriate. It's a very busy job. It's like having two jobs. My responsibilities aren't that different than what you would find in someone doing it at The Arizona Theater Company, or at some of the regional theaters.

M: How do you feel that the UA stands up, theater program wise, to other universities in the West? Do you feel that if someone was looking, just as an example, between UCLA and the UA, that you would be competitive.?

AT: Well, I think we're very competitive. I think we've become more competitive in the last five to eight years. Certainly the completion of new facilities that can support strong training has helped. Next year we are going to be celebrating our sixtieth year as a free standing theater department, and that's a pretty old program. We really have a strong National reputation, and we graduated our first class of bachelor's of fine arts students in 1938. In fact the first play that was produced here happened a little over 90 years ago.

M:You've done some very daring productions compared to a lot of other theaters in town over the last 10 years or so

AT: We're not afraid to take a stand. I think that's important. We have a very strong educational mission, not only to the students and faculty on campus, but to the Tucson community.

M: With all of the debate over departmental standing, who should be cut back and who shouldn't, the emphasis on this being the elimination of the Statistics Department, physical education, and journalism Departments, have you felt the effects from this in the last five years since the argument started?

AT: Well, I think that all of the departments had to go through the internal program review that we all did three years ago. I think it was up to each department to put their best foot forward, and to look at the mission (statement), and how well they serve the mission of the institution. Our mission is published, and you can go downstairs to our lab theater and it's outside that theater. You can also go over to the Mulroney Theater. It's blown up, six feet tall. So everyone has a chance to see what our mission is.

I think it's pretty hard to take to take the theater, and the arts of theater, out of part of university when it's been there for so long. It really provides a lot of interaction and thinking between disciplines.

M: Do you worry about cut-backs in the future? Do you worry about your departmental health, due to the climate in this country toward the arts?

AT: Well, I think every department head certainly worries and is concerned about cut-backs. It's hard to survive them. I think that people are amazed that we have a community advisory board of 25 that helps support the department, and raise funds.

We've been raising funds through corporate sponsorship and development. I think that people are always amazed to discover that less than one-third of our money comes from the state. We have to live off the box office. We have to bring in dollars from the people going to the theater.

M: So just to clarify, your department is not subsidized wholly?

AT: Absolutley not. We have to rely on ticket sales, or the quality and the kind of work that we do would be in great jeopardy.

M: That's great. I assumed along with other departments, that you were subsidized as other departments are.

AT: I would like to add that, and I think this is important, I don't ever wan't to be part of a university that is 100 percent subsidized. It's important for people to go to the theater, and to fill the seats. Then you have an agreement between the audience and the artists. They've come together for a special event. It's an investment.

M: The last question I have is, going into the next five years or so before the end of the century, what do you see you see happening with your department? What kind of things are you planning to do?

AT: I think the next five years are going to be exciting. We don't really need to wait for the next century, Every new year is an exciting challenge. I think we're looking forward to a lot of vision and rethinking about what our art form is, and what it will be in the next century. And how students in the acting and performance areas are going to need to be better prepared, because so much of our life is going to be centered around video and film. I think that offers a tremendous challenge. We're doing so much with computer technology now, and I think we're going to continue to do that. We are one of the few universities that that has stage robotics, and a lot of our scenery is motion controlled. Like you find in traveling road shows and certainly on Broadway.

This is training that very few universities are providing students with ... I don't care if you're a biology major or a sociology major, we wan't you in the theater. We really want to hold up this whole sense of the human condition; because there's so much going on in our world. There are times when you look at what's going on right now. In some things we're moving backwards instead of forwards.

What theater does is it really holds up and asks questions about the human condition. It's not just enterainment.

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