In the early years of the school, plays were performed at Missouri State University (then State Normal School and later Southwest Missouri State Teachers College), but not as a part of any formal department. The senior class did a play each spring, and the Coburn Players, an outside organization, performed here during the summers. It wasn’t until 1915 that the first class in theatre was offered to students, and until 1965, theatre classes were a part of the Department of English and Speech. Theatre became a part of the Speech and Theatre Department in 1965, and the Theatre and Dance Department was established during a 1984 reorganization. At that time, Speech was split into both the Department of Communication and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders. Dance, which prior to 1980 was a part of the Health and Physical Education Department, was included in the newly organized department.
Productions performed by the Theatre and Dance Department have included a variety of formats, such as musicals, operas, one acts, interpreters/readers theatre, USO tours, Tent Theatre productions, variety shows, and dance performances. Tent Theatre (plays and musicals performed outdoors under a tent each summer) began in 1963 as an alternative to the non-air-conditioned Carrington Auditorium. Even though air conditioning was added to the theater, however, Tent Theatre still continues as a campus tradition.
NOTE: The information above is taken from the following:
- Landon, Donald D. Daring to Excel: The First 100 Years of Southwest Missouri State University. Southwest Missouri State University, 2004.
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