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Berkeley: Departments and Programs

Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies
The Department of Dramatic Art was established in 1941, but the cause of educational theater on the Berkeley campus was served by a variety of organizations almost from the beginning of the University. The first production on record was a "romantic Italian drama in three acts entitled Marco Spada" presented by the University Dramatic Association on May 20, 1870 during the second semester of University instruction. The University Dramatic Society was founded in April, 1877, and the Berkeley Dramatic Club, in October, 1878. In the early 1890s, Louis Dupont Syle, a member of the Department of English, directed students in the production of full-length plays of serious content. Campus theatrical activity was furthered by President Benjamin Ide Wheeler in the early years of the twentieth century, notably by conceiving of the Greek Theatre, built in 1903 in a natural amphitheater used for productions since 1894.

The Greek Theatre was opened with a production by students of Aristophanes' The Birds in Greek on September 24, 1903, under the direction of James T. Allen. Thereafter, under the management of a committee chaired by William Dallam Armes, it formed a stage for many student productions and for professional actors, among whom were Ben Greet, Mme. Sarah Bernhardt, Maude Adams, Nance O'Neill, Sothern and Marlowe, Robert Mantell, and notably, Margaret Anglin, who appeared in revivals of Greek drama at intervals from 1910 until 1926. Student productions were continued under the direction of Charles D. von Neumayer and by the English Club, under the direction of Garnet Holme. In 1920, the Greek Theatre Players, under the direction of Samuel J. Hume, assisted by Irving Pichel, replaced the English Club productions.

Dramatic activity under student auspices began in 1922 with a production in Hearst Gymnasium of Harley Granville-Barker's Prunella directed by Morris Ankrum.

For the next 20 years, the Associated Students' "little theatre without a theater" produced student plays under such directors as Baldwin McGaw, Michael Raffetto, Nester Paiva, Everett Glass, and from 1931-40, Edwin Duerr.

The Department of Dramatic Art, under the chairmanship of Benjamin H. Lehman, replaced the organized student activity in 1941, and a formal major program was instituted in 1945. Fred Orin Harris became chairman in 1944, a post he held until 1960, when he was replaced by Travis Bogard. Under the chairmanship of Harris, the department began a play production of distinguished dramas of all countries and periods, among which were memorable presentations of Shakespeare's King Lear, Aeschylus' Oresteia, and Eugene O'Neill's Lazarus Laughed, all under Harris' direction. At the same time the course offerings were developed into a significant academic discipline.

In 1961, under Bogard's chairmanship, the department instituted a program of study leading to the master of arts degree, and in 1965, it offered the first Ph.D. degree program in drama at the University of California. At the same time, the play production program expanded both its major production schedule and its studio workshop presentations to a point where its productions were attended by approximately 36,500 persons yearly. Productions of note included Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra directed in the Greek Theatre by Miss Margaret Webster, and Sophocles' Antigone, directed by Takis Muzenidis, director of the Greek National Theatre. source

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