Bachelor of Preforming Arts to be offered in May 2012
// Claire McGillivray

Capilano University is entering into new territory: partnering with Langara College, Douglas College, and Vancouver Community College, Capilano will now offer a new Bachelor of Performing Arts degree program (BPA). This jointly offered program, due to launch in May of 2012, is the first of its kind in Canada.

Artistic Director of Neworld Theatre and the BPA’s newly appointed program coordinator, Marcus Youssef, thinks the program addresses a serious gap in most performing arts education: “[The program] gives serious consideration to how folks are going to make use of these skills once they graduate.”

The BPA is designed as a nine-month program for students who have already have a diploma in the performing arts. Recent grads and even longtime working professionals are now able to take their two or three years worth of diploma study and turn it into a Bachelor of Performing Arts degree, something which may help students stand out in a competitive field. Prescribed learning outcomes include a strong emphasis on artistic collaboration and the ability to market oneself as an employable artist. This includes the art of creating work for oneself where there is none.

The program requires students to work in a highly collaborative environment. This includes, over the course of the nine months, creating, fundraising, producing, and marketing a show together.

“I come from an indie-arts background, collaboration is second nature to us. That’s what we do, that’s how we survive,” says Youssef. “We’re in a pretty poor industry, and in a sense, that’s the challenge for us. We have to collaborate, and those of us that do … tend to survive the longest.”

Marcus believes that his intensely collaborative work as the Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Neworld Theatre was likely a strong contributing factor to the University’s decision to appoint him to the position of BPA program coordinator.

In terms of the collaboration between the four schools, Youssef notes, “Big institutions are a bit different. [They] kind of create their own little worlds and [do] not look outside of them. I think it would be fantastic if more institutions looked at working collaboratively. It’s really challenging for them, and frankly, in a good way. I think big institutions need to find ways to make themselves more flexible.”

Current Capilano Acting for Stage and Screen (ASAS) students have some interesting things to say about this new opportunity they are presented with. First-year Ridley Wallace notes, “As an actor, we need to have just one more trick up our sleeve to get us just one more step ahead of the game. The performing arts degree really underlines that aspect.”

Evan Kascak, also a first-year ASAS student, believes that “the BPA program is a great opportunity for those who want to go a little further with their education.” He does, however, point out a potential deterrent for those interested in the program: “Sadly, in this career, a BPA won’t really do anything for me. [It will] just cost me more money.”

As a long-time theatre professional, Youssef has some personal insight into this matter. “When you’re going out and auditioning as an actor, no one cares whether you have a degree or not; it doesn’t matter at all. What matters is the work you’re doing in the moment and whether people respond to it,” he says.

“The very common experience for people having been five or ten years out of the business … [is that] they get told that their three-year diploma is worth, like, a year of university,” he explains.

This occurs because certain post-secondary theatre courses don’t translate accurately as transfer credits at the university level. Students who complete their first year of the Acting for Stage and Screen at Capilano might have 30 credits of Theatre Studies, but upon applying to UBC or SFU, they will likely be told that the majority of their courses are duplicates. Individuals in this position are ideal candidates to benefit from the availability of the Bachelor of Performing Arts program, as they will be able to upgrade their diploma in nine months, as opposed to doing so over the course of several years.

Youssef sympathizes with the difficult position that many artists find themselves in. “Suddenly, you’re on the hook for three more years of school and all the expense and time involved, when really, in many ways, you’re pretty much close to being qualified [for a bachelor’s degree]. … A really important gap that this program addresses is now there is a nine month program where you can get the degree and it will open up your options.” Such options might include further graduate studies, masters programs, teacher’s college or education abroad.

Capilano’s joint educational initiative aims to improve the prospects for Canadian artists by giving them accessible means to furthering their education, something the program creators believe is much sought after by working artists. As Youssef puts it, “Evidence of those applying so far suggests that we are right. We have applicants who are in their 30s and 40s that have been working in the business for ten or 15 years. We have one applicant that is in his mid-60s and is a really successful film and [television] actor.”

The first cohort for the new Bachelor of Arts degree completion program is set to begin in May of 2012. The implementation of the degree is in line with Capilano’s long-term plans since it became a University in 2008. Since that time, several other programs have been introduced, including The North American Business Management Post Baccalaureate Diploma, Bachelor of Communication Studies, and the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies Degree.

// Claire McGillivray, Writer
// Photo by Natahsha Prakash

Enjoy it? Share this on Facebook


© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: