An open letter to the Missouri Southern Administration about the theatre department

Keith J. Mackey

To whom it may concern: 

It is with deep regret that I learn that the theatre department of my alma mater, Missouri Southern State University, is under review for elimination.

 I am also distressed to learn that this comes after years of apparent neglect. 

My time with the MSSU Theatre stretches back to the years of the Barn Theatre. 

Some of my most precious memories harken back to the days when I was involved in such productions as “The Fantastiks” and “As You Like It,” as well as “The Member of the Wedding” and “Inherit the Wind.” I am proud to this day to be able to say that I’m a part of the Alpha Psi Omega dramatics fraternity. 

My time at the Barn Theatre was essential in preparing me for what was to be a very successful career in radio and television. 

It also helped me prepare for the public speaking aspects of my second career, as a pastor. But let’s not talk about me, let’s talk about the student body. 

Lest we forget (and I fear we have) the purpose of any university department is to train up men and women for their careers, to bring skills to them that will be essential in the coming years as they enter society. 

Why on earth would anybody benefit from a study of theatre, especially if theatre is not their chosen profession? 

The benefits are many and obvious. Being on stage builds confidence. How many of us are terrified of public speaking? How many really never realized their potential because they froze up before a crowd, albeit a small one? 

Execute your part in a production on stage, and your presentation before your peers will be small potatoes. The benefits go way beyond a simple speech class. 

It teaches one how to work well in a group. We all have to pitch in together, taking responsibility, solving problems creatively, and accepting team challenges. 

Theatre cultivates creativity. It helps develop tangible skills, such as voice, movement, painting, sewing, design, makeup and a lot more than that. 

Believe it or not it can relieve stress, as you can slip the surly bonds of stressful college life and live another life. 

Acting exercises require you to tap into your real life emotions and turn them around to your advantage. 

You’ll learn improv, which has been a vital life source for me in both of my careers as it teaches you to think on your feet and move in another direction. You’ll learn voice projection so you may speak with confidence, and we know that is vitally important in life. 

In short, theatre changes you for the better. It did me, and we are ignoring a vital aspect to a good, solid education if students are not given this opportunity.

So sad in our modern society we seem intent on turning out robots standing around peering into their cell phones. 

I know this sounds trite, but my plea is don’t let the students be robots. Teach them a better way to grab ahold of their humanity and creativity. 

They’re human beings, bring out their deep and beautiful creative spirit from within, and they will benefit beyond measure. I know I did. 

Please, for the sake of the students, restore MSSU theatre to what it once was!