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Reflecting on 75 Years of Theatre and Dance

Projected fireworks on the front of a theatre and dance building
The F. Loren Winship Drama Building, 75th Anniversary Celebration, April 11, 2014.
On April 11, 2014, the Department of Theatre and Dance honored our 75th Anniversary with a celebratory reception, performance, and projection display on the front of the F. Loren Winship Drama Building from our Integrated Media for Live Performance students. As we celebrate our 75 years, we reflect on our history and look toward the future of the department.

75 Years of Theatre and Dance

In 1908, English Professor Stark Young, who later became a leading drama critic of the New York Times, started the Curtain Club for “some form of dramatic expression at The University of Texas." The all-university, extra-curricular club grew in popularity and three decades later helped launch the Department of Drama in 1938.

The Department of Drama, the first department devoted solely to theatre in any Texas college or university, began with four instructors and nine courses. Today, the department has grown to 50 faculty with a population of 400 undergraduates and 75 graduate students.

Curtain Club

1940s-era college students smiling
Curtain Club, 1945

The original university student organization of dramatics.

1909: First Curtain Club production of Ben Johnson’s The Silent Woman.

1932: Membership expands to include stage managers and designers.

1933: Hogg Auditorium opens and later houses the first main stage productions for the department. 

Department of Drama

1938: Department of Drama is founded. James H. Parke becomes the first departmental chair.

1939: Dramatist E. P. Conkle establishes playwriting program.

Two Shakespearian actors relaxing outdoors
Hamlet, 1955

1941: James Moll is appointed to guide the acting program.

1945: Modern dance specialist Shirlee Dodge adds “dance drama” to departmental curriculum.

1946: Internationally renowned British Shakespearean director B. Iden Payne joins faculty.

1947: Acclaimed costume designer Lucy Barton begins UT tenure.

1948: F. Loren Winship named chair of the department and establishes model teacher training program in drama.  

1949: Francis R. Hodge is appointed to oversee departmental directing program.

1955: Hamlet marks Department of Drama’s 250th production.

Actors and director standing and smiling
B. Iden Payne and cast of The Taming of the Shrew, 1959

1957: Theatre historian Frederick Hunter joins the faculty.

1958: John Reese Rothgeb is appointed to expand the design program. The Laboratory Theatre is built.

1961: Paul Reinhardt appointed to head costume area.

1962: After the 1959 fire, the new Drama Building opens on 23rd Street and San Jacinto Boulevard.

1963: Coleman A. Jennings designs theatre for youth program. David Nancarrow is appointed to teach lighting design.

1971: Legendary ballet star Igor Youskevitch is named to head dance area. His appointment brings national prestigue to the department.

A male dancer leaping
Igor Youskevitch

1976: Ruth Denney joins the faculty as head of the theatre education area. Drama Building is renovated and expanded. B. Iden Payne Theatre opens.

1978: Renowned theatre historian Oscar G. Brockett arrives at UT Austin.

1979: Drama Building is named for F. Loren Winship.

1981: Amarante Lucero joins the faculty and pioneers UT’s program in computerized, intelligent lighting. Sharon Vasquez founds the student dance company Dance Repertory Theatre.

1982: Yacov Sharir establishes UT’s professional modern dance company in residence, Sharir Dance Company. Scenic designer Robert Schmidt joins the faculty.

An instructor kneeling on the floor with schoolchildren
Dr. Coleman A. Jennings teaching children from visiting school

1989: David Mark Cohen, a distinguished dramatist and critic, took leadership of the playwriting area.

1991: Department renamed to Department of Theatre and Dance. Suzan Zeder appointed chair in theatre for youth and playwriting, the first such chair in the United States.

1992: Internationally renowned costume technology designer James Glavan arrives at UT Austin.

1993: Charlotte Canning, author of Feminist Theaters in the USA: Staging Women’s Experience, joins the faculty.

1998: Department honors Oscar G. Brockett, hosting symposium “Constructing Theatre/History” to commemorate the 30th anniversary of History of the Theatre.

A man with glasses smiling
Dr. Oscar G. Brockett

2001: The Cohen New Works Festival is created in honor of deceased faculty member David Mark Cohen. The Theatre Room dedicated as the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre.

2004: Nationally acclaimed costume designer Susan Mickey joins the faculty.

2006: Playwright Steven Dietz, one of today’s most prolific writers, joins the faculty.

2008: The inaugural production of UTNT (UT New Theatre), a showcase of new plays of third-year playwrights of the M.F.A. program, is presented.

2010: The department celebrates the 50th anniversary of The Fantasticks, written by the College of Fine Arts’ alumni Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt.

2013: The Oscar G. Brockett Center for Theatre History and Criticism is founded to promote excellence in the study of theatre history.

Thursday, April 17, 2014