Butler University Theatre is already a strong part of the arts in Indianapolis, but they’re about to get even stronger. The school will be receiving $140,000 from the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation to jump-start their Visiting International Theatre Artist (VITA) program. Through the grant, VITA will bring a theater professional from another country to Butler for 8-10 weeks each year to teach special seminars and either design or direct a production.
Theatre Department Chair William Fisher believes in the importance of this new program: “Indianapolis audiences, theatre professionals and Butler students will be challenged with an international infusion of new ideas each year through unique productions and instruction that explores theatrical practice […] through direct interaction with world renowned practitioners.”
Butler is one of the only universities in the country (and the only one in the state) to actively engage in international theatre projects. Their summer International Theatre Exchange (which will be celebrating its 9th year in 2011) has been bringing exceptional international performers to work with students, creating riveting live performances in various settings throughout Indianapolis. Consistently expanding their international sensibilities, the Department hosted Royal Shakespeare Company’s Tim Hardy (who directed the school's production of The Merchant of Venice) and Columbian director/designer Bernardo Rey (who directed their production of Woyzek) for a semester last year. Butler also is one of an elite group of schools partnering with the Moscow Art Theatre School and has taken students to London for yearly specialized study trips.
The magnanimous new donation will only reinforce the Theatre Department’s international ties. “The generosity of the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation grant allows us to take the best of all of our international programs over the years and wrap them into a program that is unique in higher education,” Theatre Professor Diane Timmerman said. “Hosting the artist for a meaningful amount of time gives us the opportunity to really get to know these artists, and built into the program are all kinds of ways to connect the artist to the community.”
The Dehaan Foundation is also giving $70,000 to the Butler Community Arts School (BCAS), which provides music education for students at 18 schools and organizations through private or group lessons. During the 2009-2010 fiscal year, 87 Butler Community Arts School fellows provided group or private lessons to 1,463 students. Through this generous grant, the BCAS will help even more young people learn to love music and make the arts in Indianapolis better for it.