A Brief History of Theatre TCU
Since its founding at Thorp Spring, Texas, in 1873, Texas Christian University has embraced performances in the Fine Arts as adjuncts to regular studies in the Liberal Arts. In the earlier years, play performances were extra-curricular activities, not courses of study, presented by students group such as the The Dramatic Club.
When the university moved to Waco, Texas, in 1895, performances by The Dramatic Club took on greater importance with more frequent presentations, usually under the direction of a faculty member in Oratory or Public Speaking. Theatrical activities were disrupted for a short time in 1909-1910 when a massive fire leveled Old Main on the Waco campus, and TCU moved to its present site on the near southwest side of Fort Worth. Four buildings were constructed facing University Drive, three dormitories and an administration building (now known as Dan Reed Hall). The Administration Building housed classrooms and in the west wing an auditorium in which regular stage productions by The Dramatic Club were resumed.
Professor Lew D. Fallis joined the faculty of Oratory and Public Speaking in 1925 and took over the direction of most plays presented by The Dramatic Club. He quickly became such a favorite with the students that they renamed their organization The Fallis Players. The Fallis Players became known outside of Fort Worth when Professor Fallis began taking productions annually to the Regional Little Theatre Tournament organized by the Dallas Little Theatre (1920-1943).
When the School of Fine Arts was established in 1943, it was decided to organize a regular curriculum in theatrical studies. To that end, in the spring of 1946, Dr. Walther R. Volbach was brought from Marquette University to become the first Director of Theatre in the newly reorganized Speech and Drama Department. Dr. Volbach was well qualified to oversee such a program, having served for a number of years as both actor and director in the theatres of Max Reinhardt in Germany.
Although plans were under way for the construction to house studies in the Fine Arts as early as 1929, it did not become a reality until the Fine Arts Building, now known as Ed Landreth Hall, opened its doors in 1949. The building houses a large auditorium for major university functions. In addition, there is a small theatre, located on the west end of the building, first called the Little Theatre, and later University Theatre. This smaller theatre was the home of all regular seasonal theatre productions of the Theatrical Division, which numbered from four to eight productions annually.
In 1958 the Division of Theatre separated from the Speech Department and became the Department of Theatre Arts. At that time, the department was offering courses to support five academic degrees: BFA in Theatre, BFA in Theatre Education, BA in Theatre, MFA in Theatre, and MA in Theatre. – Henry E. Hammack (1928-2013) (TCU Theatre faculty 1957-1994)
In 1997, the Mary F. and Thomas D. Walsh Performing Arts Complex was added to the south and west sides of Ed Landreth Hall, adding a Scenic Studio and the Marlene and Spencer Hays Theatre. In 2005, an addition to the north side of the building renovated University Theatre and renamed in the Jerita Foley Buschman Theatre. This renovation also created the new LaLonnie Lehman Lobby and a new box office for the Buschman Theatre, four new faculty offices, and a new acting/dance studio and rehearsal room. The Hays Theatre was renovated in 2010 adding a new control booth, a tension grid, new sound system, and improved seating. In 2008, the curriculum was revised to include the BFA in Theatre, available with 5 different emphases: Acting, Design, Musical Theatre, Production, Theatre Studies. The liberal arts BA in Theatre is also available. All Theatre graduate programs were phased out in the 1990’s. At this writing, the TCU Department of Theatre has 11 faculty and 5 professional staff. – Harry Parker