Sunday, January 4, 2004

'Straw hat' summer shows lose another stage - Miami U

By Jackie Demaline
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Add Miami University to the growing list of large institutions that are dropping summer theater series.

Miami University Summer Theatre, which ran in Oxford for 38 years, will be dropped for 2004. William Doan, theater department chair, reports that a task force will be appointed to evaluate the program and make recommendations for its future.

That's all but an echo of the statements coming from University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music on the topic of Hot Summer Nights, which was put on hiatus last season and is unlikely to be back in the coming summer.

"It's time to take a breather to consider possible future directions for the program," Doan said of the Miami decision, pointing to a number of changes the department has been undergoing for the last several years - and to cutbacks in higher education overall as state funding drops.

It's worth noting that the tradition of "straw hat," a theater schedule devoted to musicals and light comedies as light as sherbet for the summer months, has been on a steep decline for more than a decade as Americans make different choices for their leisure time and dollars.

Miami's task force will consider how to best focus resources in a way that most benefits students, the department and the university community, as well as Oxford residents and donors who have been strong supporters of the program.

CCM promises a decision by February. Locally, Northern Kentucky University, which has successfully operated a summer series in its tiny black box theater, will be back in 2004 with titles to be announced.

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