University Theatre thrives at 80

The University of Georgia department of theatre and film studies is celebrating 80 years of live performances by University Theatre.

However, its roots reach back much farther. In 1893, UGA students formed the Thalian Dramatic Club, one of the oldest college dramatic clubs in the country. Proceeds from the shows for most of its first 20 years went to various charitable causes, most consistently to UGA’s Athletic Association. In 1926, a second dramatic club, the Blackfriars, was formed at UGA, and there was an immediate rivalry between the two groups. In 1931, the two clubs merged under the leadership of journalism professor Edward C. Crouse to become the Thalian-Blackfriars, the official theatrical club of the university with its own playhouse in Seney-Stovall Memorial Theatre. By 1932, the new “University Theatre” was offering its first season ticket campaign and played to packed houses. In 1939, the department of dramatic art (today’s department of theatre and film studies) was created with Crouse as its first department head.

“UGA’s tradition of live theatre is vital and thriving,” said David Saltz, head of the department of theatre and film studies. The Fine Arts lobby will be home to a yearlong display of the history of University Theatre, highlighting material from the Edward C. Crouse Collection and the University Theatre Collection at UGA’s Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

According to Saltz, “This year’s season embodies everything University Theatre has represented during the past 80 years, combining timeless classics by Shakespeare and Chekhov, long-time crowd-pleasers like The Fantasticks, recent plays by some of today’s greatest living writers and even a world-premiere by a member of our own faculty. The seven shows are all enthralling in their own different way and collectively offer a microcosm of theatre at the dawn of the 21st century.”

The 2012-13 season consists of four mainstage productions on the Fine Arts stage, and three Studio Series presentations that offer live theatre in a vibrant, stripped-down format. The season opener, In the Next Room (or the vibrator play) in the Cellar Theatre, a is comedy by Tony-Award winning playwright Sarah Ruhl that Saltz described as “fascinating, deeply compassionate and very funny.” Former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove’s combination of the Oedipus myth with the reality of slavery, The Darker Face of the Earth, is the University Theatre’s contribution to UGA’s Spotlight on the Arts festival in November. Spring semester begins with The Fantasticks at Seney-Stovall Theatre and ends with a multimedia production of Macbeth on the Fine Arts stage.

Tickets for mainstage productions are $16 and $12 for UGA students. Studio Series tickets are $12 and $7 for UGA students.

The Spotlight on the Arts festival will be presented by the UGA Arts Council, of which the department of film studies is a participating unit. More than 50 events are scheduled during the nine-day campus festival Nov. 3-11.