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Collection Summary

Title Theatre
Span Dates 1938-2009
Bulk Dates 1938-2001
Quantity 8 linear ft.
Printed Material Printed Materials are located in Boxes 1-6.
Location     Archives and Special Collections, University Libraries, University of South Dakota.

Theatre at the University of South Dakota had its beginnings as early as 1882. Theatre activities at that time were part of extra curricular groups such as the Mask and Wig Club, Theta Alpha Phi and then later as part of Latin, French, Greek and elocution classes. It was not until 1911, that the first official theatre class The Department Play was offered by the English department.

Before the completion of Slagle Auditorium in 1925, theatre productions were performed at the city theatre, the outdoor theatre or on the Chapel stage. Once Slagle Auditorium was designated as the official site for theatre performances, property shops were still located separately from the theatre in the basement of Old Main.

In 1931, the Colleges of Music, Dramatic Arts and Art were combined to create the College of Fine Arts. Everett M. Schreck from Yale University was hired the following year as the University of South Dakota’s first full time theatre instructor and two years following in the summer of 1934, Florence T. Wyman graduated with the first Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in the Dramatic Arts. Requirements at that time for a Dramatic Arts major were 24 credit hours in history, play writing, and various theatre workshops.

In 1946, the Black Hills Playhouse (BHP) was established and in the following year it became an official branch of the department. Students could earn 10 credit hours during the summer in drama. In 1948, Warren M. Lee’s production of The Legend of Devil’s Gulch premiered at the Black Hills Playhouse. The Black Hills Playhouse was located at a former Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp, which is still utilized to this day. 1956 marked the year a new theatre building opened and the BHP celebrated their thousandth performance with Our Town in the summer of 1961.

For many years the College of Fine Arts, including theatre, was scattered between as many as eight buildings. Dean Warren M. Lee lobbied to build a facility for fine arts. Finally in 1970, construction of a fine arts center was approved and the Warren M. Lee Center for the Fine Arts was completed in 1973. Tartuffe was the first play to be performed in the new building, October 3-6, 1974.

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