In 1909, before there was a major in Theatre Arts, Dr. David Coate, professor of English, sponsored the campus dramatic group, The Buskin Dramatic Club. Their first performance was The Christmas Chime and was held three years later. Shortly thereafter the club disbanded.Drama at UWL was on hold for a few years until the Speech Department sponsored a new dramatic club in 1937. The driving force behind this new group was Marie Park Toland, director of theatre. Dr. Toland was joined by Robert Frederick in 1946, and together they built the foundations or "the first act" of theatre for UWL.
Their invaluable contributions to the program led to the creation of an academic major in Speech beginning in 1968. Both Toland and Frederick have theatres named in their honor. Twelve years later UWL finally created an official major in Theatre Arts. Dr. Robert Joyce and Dr. Richard Tinapp took their initial offering and trained many theatre students, practitioners, and lovers of the art. Their blood, sweat, and passion laid the groundwork for what has become a vibrant, vital force within the region.
Today's Department of Theatre Arts has come a long way from its' meek beginnings in 1909. In 1997 Theatre split from Speech and the Department of Theatre Arts was created. The new major has five emphases including General Theatre, Performance, Design/Tech, Musical Theatre, and Theatre Management. Students from any major can minor in Theatre Arts with the same emphasis areas. From its' early beginnings, theatre arts today has over 60 majors and 30 minors with academic and artistic credentials equal or better than any undergraduate program in the country.
Along with a full palette of academic classes, the Department of Theatre Arts produces seven productions a year including a yearly children's show and an annual SummerStage musical with auditions open to the entire community. The future of Theatre at UWL is stronger than at any other point in its history. The growth of the department, the strength of the faculty, the excellence of its students, and the award-winning program are leading us to the next level. Along with support from the campus and from the community, this program is poised to become a leader in theatre training in the region and throughout the Midwest.