Proposed Closure of the Centre for Theatre and Performance – the End of an Era?
BY JOSEPH LEW AND EMMA ANVARI
In a devastating blow to the performing arts, Monash University has proposed to shut down the Centre for Theatre and Performance (CTP) and no longer offer theatre and performance majors.
The decision was revealed in a tweet by Professor Jane Montgomery Griffiths, Deputy Director of the CTP, who said the forthcoming closure would leave 75 per cent of its staff redundant.
Her tweet reveals the CTP may be shut down by the end of the year following revenue shortfalls from COVID-19.
However Monash University has not yet revealed a publicly-available date.
The centre has long served as a creative hub for staff, students and members of Melbourne’s theatre community.
When we reached out to Monash University, a spokesperson said “no final decision has been made” and the university is currently consulting with staff and representative bodies about the proposal.
“Monash, like many universities, will need to change some aspects of the way we operate, along with how and what we deliver, due to a shortfall in revenue caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the spokesperson said.
“As a result, we have proposed that the major in Theatre and Performance will be moved to a minor or study sequence, with units still being offered within the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music.”
Monash President of the National Tertiary Education Union, Ben Eltham, said the union “don’t believe this [is] necessary” and “call on the Vice-Chancellor to reconsider this decision”.
“The performing arts are a core component of the arts and humanities,” Mr Eltham said.
“It is a sad day indeed when a $2.7 billion Group of Eight university like Monash cannot support a theatre and performing arts program.”
Mr Eltham isn’t the only one who feels this way, with numerous students taking across social media to share similar feelings of loss and anger.
When Monash University double-degree student and theatre major Alexandras Bartaska heard the news, he took to Facebook Live to share how much the centre meant to him.
“You hear about these things as an undergraduate student and you think ‘that won’t happen to us’, but it did,” Mr Bartaska said.
“It’s crazy that today I was supposed to study and do my homework but instead I am fighting to save the existence of my degree.
“You cannot treat a university school as disposable – that is reckless. It’s defeatist, it’s reckless, and to an extent it’s immature. What a loss.”
Monash University fourth-year theatre and performance major, Nesceda Blake, said it was a “massive kick in the guts” to hear “the big dogs don’t give a s–t about the arts”.
“Taking away CTP is taking away open-access theatre education to new students,” she said.
“Many theatre schools in Australia are audition-only, and favour only the triple threats, the rich and the white.
“I received an education that blended theory and practice, with a wide range of people that you’d never otherwise see in a room together.”
Several prominent public figures also took to social media to voice their dismay.
Australian television presenter Jo Stanley commented on Jane Montgomery Griffiths’ tweet and said the decision to remove CTP “is absolutely devastating and a tragedy”.
Students and staff across Monash now await further information regarding the closure and continue to hope for the best.