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Theater Thrives at Dartmouth

"Theater is where all the arts come together," says Lenore Grenoble, professor of Russian, associate dean of the humanities, and chair of the Department of Theater. She describes theater as a crossroads of the arts and humanities: students and faculty interested in dance, directing, studio art, set design, history, literature, and theory all meet in theater. "I see theater growing at Dartmouth," she says, "partly because it touches on all these different and important areas."

The Department  of Theater produces a play each term in Moore Theater. In August, students performed Federico Garcia Lorca's Doña Rosita, directed by Donald Levit.
The Department  of Theater produces a play each term in Moore Theater. In August, students performed Federico Garcia Lorca's Doña Rosita, directed by Donald Levit. (photo by Joe Mehling '69)

According to Grenoble, theater at Dartmouth is experiencing a renaissance. There are two basic elements of the department: the study of the history, theory, and criticism of theater as well as the production of plays. Grenoble says both of these areas will see growth in the next few years, with the addition of new faculty. One example of this is the return of dance to the curriculum.

Professor of Theater Peter Hackett '75 wants to elevate theater, not only at Dartmouth but also in society. "The arts in this country are in crisis. It's difficult to sustain arts organizations," says Hackett, who, before returning to Dartmouth last summer, was the artistic director at the Cleveland Play House. "Dartmouth is a place where we can help set a national agenda so the arts will gain prominence as an academic pursuit and a viable career option. I want to help society embrace the arts by cultivating students who graduate and go out into the world caring for the arts."

Like Grenoble, Hackett describes theater as inherently interdisciplinary. "Theater is where people gather." He ex-plains that lessons learned in theater can be applied in business, science, or other arts fields. Theater provides experience in consensus building, develops communication skills, and offers lessons in collaboration and self-control, all valuable skills for a student's résumé.

Hackett plans to direct his first Dartmouth production during the 2005 winter term. He chose J.M. Barrie's Dear Brutus because of the substance of the play, which concerns getting a second chance in life, and for the play's scenic challenges. Barrie, best known as the author of Peter Pan, explores more adult themes in Dear Brutus, and Hackett is excited to begin work on the production.

"The students I've met so far are incredibly eager and curious," he says. "That's why I'm here. I'm committed to teaching and to passing on the craft to the next generation."

By Susan Knapp

To Their Credit

Some accomplished alumni continuing Dartmouth's theater legacy include:

  • Robert Berlinger '80: television and theater director, Cybill, The Golden Girls, 3rd Rock from the Sun
  • Paul Binder '63: founder, owner, artistic director Big Apple Circus
  • David Birney '61: actor, director, president Mab Productions, Ltd., The Five of Me, Secrets, St. Elsewhere
  • Frank Gilroy '50: playwright and director, The Gig, Once in Paris, The Subject Was Roses
  • Barry Grove II '73: executive producer Manhattan Theatre Club, Inc.
  • John Hart Jr. '75: film and theater producer
  • Lorna Hill '73: founder, artistic director Ujima [theater] Company, Inc.
  • Mindy Kaling '01: playwright and actor, Matt & Ben
  • Meryl Streep (1970s exchange student and mother of Henry Gummer '02): actor, Angels in America, Kramer vs. Kramer, Sophie's Choice
  • Brenda Withers '00: playwright and actor, Matt & Ben
  • Jerry Zaks '68: theater director, Guys and Dolls, Lend Me a Tenor, The Man Who Came to Dinner

Questions or comments about this article? We welcome your feedback.

Last Updated: 5/30/08