College of Communication and Fine Arts Department of Theatre & Dance
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History

The Beginning 1929-1956

Theatre at the University of Memphis had its beginnings in the Department of English in 1929. This makes us one of the longest continually performing theatre organizations in Memphis. In 1949, the Department of Speech and Drama was created, “dedicated to present the living theatre in worthwhile plays of past and present.” The two-person department produced and directed five plays per season in addition to a summer program that consisted of a full-length play and a series of one-acts.The department began its community outreach in 1952 with student performances in schools and civic clubs.

Continued Progress 1957-1969

In 1957, Memphis State received full university status and the faulty of the Department of Speech and Drama increased to three professors. A Master's of Art degree was first offered  in 1966/-65, and a year later the department found a new home in the present Theatre building.

The Hair Era 1970-1983

In 1970, under the direction of Keith Kennedy, the University's first Director of Theatre, the department produced the controversial Broadway hit musical Hair. In 1973 the Master of Fine Arts degree in Theatre was instituted, and the dance program was incorporated into the department in 1983.

Establishing the Department of Theatre & Dance 1995-1999

In 1995 the Department of Speech and Drama became the Department of Theatre & Dance, and Robert A. Hetherington joined the faculty as department chair in 1997. Under his guidance, the department has grown and forged strong relationships with Memphis theatres. The guest artist and European theatre exchange programs have expanded and the technical program has advanced. The department operates state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment as well as computer numerical control (CNC).

Continued Growth and Excellence 2000-Present

In 2000 Professor Emeritus Gloria Baxter was selected as the Thurber House Playwright-in-Residence in Columbus, Ohio. She was also awarded the prestigious First Tennessee Meritorious Professorship for 2005/08.

In 2001 the department held its first alumni reunion and the tradition continued in 2007 and 2010. We are proud to say that a large percentage of our graduates continue to work in professional theatre and film throughout the nation as well as in theatre programs at other universities. Our alumni can also be found in the Memphis area, working as artistic directors /executive officers local theatres such as Theatre Memphis, Germantown Community Theatre, Playhouse on the Square, Circuit Playhouse, Voices of the South and Project: Motion.

In 2003 the Jeniam Foundation became a generous partner of the department, supporting a variety of projects such as the renovation and equipment acquisition for the computer design lab. The same year, Associate Professor Stephen Hancock received the College of Communication and Fine Arts Dean's Advising Award for excellence in undergraduate advising and in 2004 he received the Thomas W. Briggs Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award, the university's highest award for excellence in undergraduate teaching. In 2008, Professor John McFadden was recognized for his outstanding record of teaching, research and service with the prestigious Benjamin W. Rawlins Jr. Professorship.

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Department of Theatre & Dance
144 Theatre Building
Phone: (901) 678-2523
Fax: (901) 678-1350
Email: theatre@memphis.edu

Box Office: (901) 678-2576
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Last Updated: 10/23/13