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From drama clubs to the Speech and Drama Department
Courses in Speech and Drama made a somewhat later appearance into the institution’s official curriculum than Art and Music courses. Of course, early extra-curricular clubs such as the College Shakespearean Club and touring theatre troupes such as the State College Players not only formed a vital part of the institution’s extra-curricular life, but served as an important source of outreach to communities further afield as well. However, evidence points to the fact that the first official drama courses were not offered until 1924. In that year, Professor Howard A. Seckerson of the English Department organized the State College Players in the contexts of a Modern Drama class. During the 1923-24 school year, the Players traveled over 3,000 miles performing a repertory of nine plays for nearly 50 performances. Their touring helped to promote state-wide interest in and acceptance of play production. The Speech and Drama Department was formed in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1949. Upon the founding of the School of Fine Arts in 1961, the name of the Department became the Theatre Department.
Original home of Drama productions
Hawley Armory, constructed around 1912, was the site of the earliest recorded campus dramatic productions. These were staged by the Dramatics Club in 1916. The Armory was home to countless other productions reaching well into the 1940s and 1950s. Upon its formation in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1949, the Speech and Drama Department opened office, classroom, and other spaces in temporary, military styled buildings located in South Campus. In 1952, the newly constructed Student Union Building joined Hawley Armory as a site for numerous dramatic productions and performance events.
Drama courses ca. 1945 taught in the English Department
Building upon traditions dating back to Professor Howard A. Seckerson’s courses and the extra-curricular activities of the Shakespeare Club, as pictured here in 1915, Drama courses featuring some basic elements of theatre production were offered in the English Department during the forties.
WW II GIs return home to “Siberia”
The return of thousands of GIs from WWII battlefields created tremendous changes in university life throughout the country. Perhaps the most dramatic change in Storrs took place when the South Campus witnessed the hasty construction of a number of temporary, military barracks-like structures designed to accommodate returning vets and the academic classes whose enrollments were dramatically heightened by their presence. The Art and the Drama Departments were housed in these buildings, which were known, collectively, as “Siberia.”
Speech and Drama Department created in College of Arts and Sciences
Upon its formation in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1949, the Speech and Drama Department opened office, classroom, and other spaces in temporary, military styled buildings located in South Campus. This building, part of the South Campus complex, was located on Rt. 195 at Bolton Rd., the site of the Drama Music Building.
Speech and Drama Department offices pinpointed on hand drawn campus map
Speech and Drama Department offices just south of map reference 38, Art Department in building 33 on the South Campus.
This is the last entry for the decade of the 1940s. Please return to the sidebar on the home page to continue navigating the timeline by decade.
Student Union home to Drama productions
The newly constructed Student Union Building joined Hawley Armory is a site for numerous dramatic productions and performance events.
“Life with Mother,” based on the stories of Clarence Day Howard, and presented by Speech and Drama, was the first arena style production to be done in the Student Union Ballroom.
Fine Arts Festival an annual event during the 1950s
The Fine Arts Festival was an annual event on campus beginning in 1953. It signaled that a newly enlivened atmosphere for campus fine arts activities had been generated by the addition to the faculty of new leaders in the arts and by the construction of the new Student Union Building and, later, the Jorgensen Auditorium. Such robust growth of activity in the arts propelled the University toward the official founding of the School of Fine Arts in 1961.
Jorgensen Auditorium opened
A modern, spacious and well-equipped hall with outstanding acoustics for musical and dramatic performances of all kinds, the newly created Auditorium was initially known as the “University Auditorium.” Beneath the Auditorium is a comfortably spacious art gallery.