In 1908, English Professor Stark Young, who later became the 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, with James H. Parke as chair, began with four instructors and nine courses. It was the first department devoted solely to theatre in any Texas college or university.

Today, the department has grown to 50 faculty, teaching a total of 150 courses, with a student population of 350 undergraduates and 85 graduate students.

Founding Faculty: 
In 1939, E.P. Conkle began the playwriting program and James Moll, who arrived in 1941, created the first acting curriculum. B. Iden Payne joined the faculty in 1946 and established an annual Shakespearean production staged in modified Elizabethan style. Lucy Barton followed in 1948 to establish the major in costume.

F. Loren Winship chaired the department from 1948-1968. During those years he led the department through tremendous challenges and achievements, including the construction of the drama building that today bears his name.

Under Winship’s leadership, the department inaugurated the master of fine arts degree in drama in 1948. Between 1949 and 1979, Francis Hodge brought the master of fine arts directing program to national recognition. Scene designer John Reese Rothgeb joined the faculty in 1958. In the 1960s and 1970s, David Nancarrow, Paul Reinhardt, and Rothgeb, continued the excellent efforts of their predecessors in lighting, costuming and scene design, respectively. Coleman A. Jennings, a graduate of the department (and eventually its chair from 1980-1992), designed a program in creative drama and theatre for young audiences that has received national awards for its excellence.

In 1971, legendary ballet star Igor Youskevitch was hired to head the dance program, which Shirlee Dodge established in 1945. The dance program was further developed by Lathan Sanford, Leon Danielian, Yacov Sharir, and Sharon Vasquez, who established the student group, Dance Repertory Theatre, in 1982.

To reflect the growth and stature of the dance program, the name of the department was changed to "Department of Theatre and Dance" in 1991.

Programs for elementary and high school students have been part of the department since its inception. The department was the first Texas institution to offer a drama teacher training program. Originally created by Loren Winship in the 1940s, the program was revitalized by Ruth Denney in the 1970s. From 1961 until 1999, Lynn Murray directed the nationally known UT Summer Theatre Workshop for Texas' most outstanding high school drama students.

Oscar Brockett, the leading theatre historian in the United States, came to the university in 1978 to serve as Dean of the College of Fine Arts. After stepping down as dean in 1980, he joined the Department of Theatre and Dance and built the M.A./Ph.D. in Theatre History and Criticism into the top-ranked theatre doctoral program in the country. Jill Dolan came to the department in the fall of 1999 and brought with her a unique approach to Theatre History and Criticism by incorporating an emphasis in "performance as public practice" within the program.

 In 1959, the Modern Language Building, which housed the Department of Drama, burned down. Temporary housing was found in "Z Hall", one of several army barracks moved to campus after World War II, the basement of Hogg Auditorium and other locations about campus. Another army barrack, "X Hall", served as a small proscenium theatre until the opening of the Laboratory Theatre in 1959.

In 1962, the new drama building, named after F. Loren Winship, was dedicated. An addition to the building, which included classrooms, faculty offices, dance studios, and the 500-seat B. Iden Payne Theatre was opened in 1976.

In 2001, the 240-seat Theatre Room located inside the Winship Building was formally dedicated as the Oscar G. Brockett Theatre. Texas Performing Arts, with a 3,000-seat concert hall, a 400-seat proscenium theatre, and scenic studios, opened in 1981.