Department of Drama and Dance
- Existence: 1983
The Department of Drama and Dance formally came into existence on September 1, 1983. The Department of Drama absorbed the Dance Program which had been part of the Department of Physical Education to create the newly formed department. Professor Sherwood Collins, who had been the Chair of the Department of Drama remained as the head of the newly expanded department. Associate Professor Alice Trexler who had been at the helm of the Dance Program remained as its director after the formation of the new department had been officially completed.
The Department of Drama and Dance articulated information about the Department in the Bulletin of Tuft University for the academic year 1984-1985 as follows, "Through the study of drama and theater arts, the student can cultivate an understanding and appreciation of one of Western society's main civilizing forces; develop powers of intellect, imagination, emotion, and vocal and bodily expressiveness, as well as standards of good taste and workmanship; and gain a sound foundation for later pursuit of interests in this field". Regarding the Dance Program, the Bulletin stated, "The objectives of the Tufts dance program are to acquaint the student with both dance technique and dance theory within the realm of a liberal arts education".
The Department of Drama and Dance offers graduate programs leading to a Master of Arts as well as a Doctor of Philosophy.
Dance is a component of the Department of Drama and Dance, operating within the liberal arts philosophy with beginning to advanced courses. Events vary by semester, including informal presentations of faculty/student/guest work. Creativity and critical thinking are stressed in classes. The program serves the liberal arts goals rather than having a conservatory orientation even though several or more of our courses offer opportunities for students to continue with advanced skills. Modern dance is the core curricular element along with several non-western forms offered during the year.
- Alice Trexler, Associate Professor and Director of Dance, Dance Studies
- Laurence Senelick, Fletcher Professor of Oratory and Director of Graduate Studies, Dramatic Literature and Theory, Theatre and Film History
The earliest known theater groups at Tufts were student dramatic societies, independent or affiliated with the Department of English. They included the Dramatic Club, 1876, the Stuft Club, 1886-92, the Modjeska Dramatic Club, 1895, the Eranos Club, and Pen, Paint and Pretzels (3 P's), 1910. In 1915, Jackson College officially established its own dramatic society, the Masque. Class Day plays by individual Tufts and Jackson classes formed the most consistent dramatic tradition in those early years. Major productions organized by the Department of English were Ralph Roister Doister in 1895, Comus (in conjunction with the Department of Music) in 1901 and Old Fortunatus in 1910.
Some of the evolution of theater on campus stems from changes in venue. From the earliest years of performance on a platform in Goddard Gymnasium, dramatic activity was moved to the new Jackson Gymnasium in 1909, which housed most campus productions for nearly forty years thereafter. As the 3 P's and the Masque began to hit their stride, they were guided by Professor Leo Rich Lewis (director of Tufts drama between 1900 and 1915, later the longtime head of the Department of Music) and Professor Albert H. Gilmer who succeeded him in the season of 1915-16 and was elected Fletcher Professor of Dramatic Literature in 1925. In 1930, the 3 P's, which had been co-producing plays with the Masque, incorporated the Jackson group and henceforth the 3 P's was a co-ed organization.
In 1940, the Department of Drama and Speech (DDS) was created. That same year, a noted production of Playboy of the Western World initiated the experimental style of arena staging, with tables surrounding a playing space in the round. 1943 saw the beginning of the Tufts Summer Theater, produced cooperatively by the DDS and the 3 P's in the same arena style. The Tufts Summer Arena Theater produced its first full season of plays in 1946.
In 1948, Jackson built a new gym and the building was rechristened the Tufts Arena Theater, now managed by the DDS. The Tufts Graduate Dramatic Society chose the 1948-49 season to open its membership to actors from the surrounding community, changing its name to the Tufts Community Players (TCP.) At this juncture, the five theater groups on campus formed the Tufts College Theater Association, its members being the 3 P's, the DDS, the TCP, the Summer Arena Theater and the Tufts Film Society. Magic Circle was instituted in 1951 as a day camp/summer theater group for children, using the same performance facilities, as did the other theater groups on campus. In 1956, MIT's newspaper, The Tech, called the Tufts Arena Theater "the most active single house in the Boston area," citing the productions of the TCP, DDS and 3 P's and noting the theater as "a pioneer in the field of arena staging."
Beginning in the 1963-64 season and continuing through the Eighties, the Department of Drama's Drama 155-156 class began presenting plays directed by the students in studio productions of one-act plays; the group called itself Cup & Saucer.
In 1991, the Tufts Arena Theater building was destroyed and all campus theatrical operations were moved to the newly-constructed, state-of-the-art theatre facility, the Marston Balch Arena Theater in the Aidekman Arts Center.