Get to know a club

Get to know a club is a column where students can read about the different clubs on campus and what they do.
To say that The University of Tulsa has a complicated relationship with the performing arts is an understatement. Former TU President Gerard Clancy’s 2019 budget cuts, widely known as True Commitment, eliminated the major from the university, leaving the school not just without a degree program for aspiring thespians but also without any sort of theatre department. Gone are the days when students could watch their peers perform “Little Women” at the now-defunct Kendall Hall. Productions of “Eurydice” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are distant unrealities to the modern student body. At the hands of True Commitment, drama at TU has endured a death more brutal than nearly any other program. However, some students are unwilling to surrender their passion so easily. At the start of the 2024 Spring semester, four students — Savannah Maughan, Jadyn Fording, Abby Dallmann and Alexander Dupree — officially founded the TU Theatre Club.
Dupree always dreamed of participating in college theatre. “I wanted to pursue musical theatre, and there wasn’t an opportunity to do that,” he explained. Upon learning that others felt similarly, Dupree knew what he needed to do: he had to make the opportunity. With the help of Stephanie Thanscheidt, a sophomore familiar with the ins and outs of student associations, Dupree and his co-founders gained permission from the Student Government Association Senate to establish the new club.
Also essential to the club’s success is James Gregory. A faculty member in the School of Music since 2022, Gregory’s expertise in the performing arts has been indispensable when advising the leadership team on how to move forward with scheduling and expansion.
Dupree was shocked by the influx of interest after first proposing the idea and numbers have only increased since they advertised at the Jan. 31 spring activities fair. Not only is the general interest reassuring on an organizational level but also on a personal level. Theatre has always been remarkably important to Dupree both as a means of self-expression and as a means of connection. “Theatre is the most powerful way of changing lives,” Dupree stated. “Storytelling brings these powerful ideas down to our level — the level of the everyday person.” The art of theatre features something no other storytelling medium does: real people interacting with real people, all in the flesh. The ambiguity of the screen, while conducive to certain goals, can sometimes struggle to convey the rawness of human emotion that live theatre facilitates. “Hopefully, in ten years, we can get theatre fully back on campus. TU is a liberal arts school, and theatre is the crown jewel of liberal arts.”
Dupree and the leadership team are already planning events and collaborations. On Feb. 9, they are planning a karaoke night for students to let their talent shine. They are also working with the Asian American Student Association to perform a skit at the Lunar New Year Festival. In addition, sometime in April near the end of the semester they will be hosting a cabaret — a collection of musical-theatre focused songs. The ideas do not end there; Dupree has considered an improv show, a movie night and a number of other performances and get-togethers. Due to the newness of the club and a momentary lack of funding, securing rights for typical college productions (such as the previously mentioned “Little Women”) will take time. However, the theatre club is working to connect with the Honors College to put on a free-to-perform Greek tragedy.
If a student is interested, the best way to get involved is to email Dupree or one of the other founders. Support is crucial for a new club’s success, especially for one as ambitious as the performing arts. Any student, with or without experience in drama or theatre, is welcome and encouraged to join.
As we finished our discussion, Dupree left me with a few words of wisdom. “We can lose sight of who we are with all the [focus on] STEM, and I think theatre brings us back to that, back to our humanity, and [reminds us] that you and I aren’t really that different.” Indeed, through all the attention we place on our studies, it can be easy to narrow our lives down to the familiar. Part of the intrigue of theatre is exploring the unknown: new people, new concepts, new realities. The path forward after True Commitment may seem paved with uncertainty, but together — with the help of our student leaders and generous faculty — we can brave the future and, with time, re-establish performing arts’ place in our college.

Post Author: Julia Bush