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- University of Alberta Studio Theatre
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0.65 m. of textual material, 127 photographs, 25 drawings, 39 plans
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In 1949, University of Alberta drama professor Robert Orchard, with the help of Elizabeth Sterling Haynes and other University staff and students, created a 149 seat theatre in two deserted Second World War Quonset huts. The Quonset huts, placed side by side, contained between them a stage, auditorium, workshop, drama offices and foyer. Studio Theatre was established as a "laboratory" for students taking courses in the Drama Division; it provided a first-hand opportunity for students, teachers and drama technicians to practice their craft and hone their skills. The following excerpt, printed in a 1961-62 Studio Theatre production program, echoes this sentiment: "Studio Theatre is the producing organization of the Drama Division, University of Alberta. The aim of the division in all its work is to teach living theatre, and to present a rich stage experience through the medium of important historical and contemporary plays." Early participants in Studio Theatre included Robert Orchard, Gordon Peacock, Bert Pullinger, Frank Glenfield, Elizabeth Sterling Haynes, Don Pimm, and Tom Peacocke. Studio Theare was operated by the staff of the Drama Division of the Department of Fine Arts, and the Division offered a Bachelor of Arts in Drama. As well, students in the Faculty of Education could elect drama as their major field of study, and a six-week summer session in drama was established. The first play produced on the Quonset stage was Henry IV, and starred Robert Orchard. Gordon Peacock also had a part. Studio Theatre operated out of the Quonset theatre quarters for eight seasons, producing over 40 full-act plays, numerous one-act plays, offering two world premieres and six Canadian premieres. Studio Theatre actors won a regional drama festival in 1953 with their production of Othello. However, increasing enrollment at the University of Alberta meant that the land occupied by the Quonset huts was needed for an expanding University building program, and the huts were torn down in May of 1958. Without another building to go to, the Drama Department announced that the ninth season for Studio Theatre would be cancelled. In fact a ninth season of production did occur because of an offer of space made by the Faculty of Education. Studio Theatre was provided with the use of a remodeled auditorium and with classroom space in the Education Building (E.A. Corbett Hall) until permanent theatre space was built. Although the University drama community in 1959 was very optimistic that permanent theatre space would soon be a reality, Studio Theatre ended up operating out of Corbett Hall for thirty more years. Productions were viewed as very much 'community' events. Drama students, staff, alumni, and guest performers and directors from the local community and beyond were all featured on the Studio Theatre stage. Studio Theatre performed out of Corbett Hall through June of 1989, winding up its 40th season anniversary with Michael Frayn's Benefactor just prior to the closing of Corbett Hall for renovations on June 17, 1989. The announcement was made that Studio Theatre's new home for the following two years would be the Myer Horowitz stage. Again, forecasts of length of time at the site were underestimated, and it wasn't until 1995 that Studio Theatre moved to its new home in the newly opened Timm's Centre. Studio Theatre, rapidly approaching its 50th anniversary of operation, continues to provide Edmonton audiences with a varied and unique theatre experience. It also continues to serve as a showcase for students graduating from the professional training programs in acting, directing, design, construction, and costuming. Many of the people who gained experience on the Studio Theatre stage have gone on to establish careers in the theatre world.
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The University of Alberta Alumni Studio A was registered as a Society on May 4th, 1956. Membership was open to any person who was an alumnus of the University of Alberta provided their membership was approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors, consisting of a President, Vice-President, Secretary-Treasurer, and two directors met monthly, while general meetings were planned annually. The head of the Studio Theatre was an ex-officio member of the board during his term of office. Studio Theatre provided rehearsal space, underwrote the expenses of the plays, and had a share of Alumni Studio's profits. The alumni who joined this organization were often Drama Department graduates who wished to remain involved with the University theatre scene. The Alumni Studio players staged productions during the Studio Theatre season, Alumni Players acting alongside current University of Alberta drama students in regular season productions. The Alumni Studio A Society appears to have functioned until the mid-1960's, and gradually dwindling out as Studio Theatre focused more on students in the drama program filling all the positions related to the production. While very brief, the Alumni Studio A records that follow provide a variety of information on the Society.
Torches Theatre opened in June of 1962 as an outdoor summer theatre. It was an idea of Gordon Peacock's, based on his experience of seeing Shakespeare staged in the open at Central Park in New York. Torches Theatre was situated in the south courtyard of Corbett Hall, which permitted access to the Studio Theatre switchboard for lights and power. The entrance to the courtyard was marked with two burning torches that prior to the performance were placed on either side of the stage; hence the name "Torches" Theatre. The outdoor stage was a raised platform, four feet high with steps up to it and levels above it for a second story. The audience, which could number over 200, sat on wooden chairs on the lawn; in case of rain, the theatre was moved indoors to the Studio Theatre stage. Productions played nightly and were usually staged from early July until mid-August. Productions staged in the first summer at Torches included Dark of the Moon, Under Milkwood, and Our Town.
Torches was a semi-professional theatre; a 1967 press release states that: "each acting fellow will be paid $75.00 per week for the performance period and $50.00 per week for the rehearsal periods." This press release advertises pay rates for positions in acting, production and box office. By 1967, the Torches productions were touring the province, performing in a number of communities in Alberta prior to their regular summer season.
The Torches records consist of eighteen production books dating from 1962 to 1969. They provide valuable information about the Torches summer productions, and are listed below.
The files are arranged chronologically by date of production.
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Created by RFROGNER 10-19-2009. Updated by MACS 4-30-2010.