University of Alberta Studio Theatre

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University of Alberta Studio Theatre

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Dates of existence

1949 -

History

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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