Feb. 28, 2013
CUADrama Celebrates 75th Anniversary
April Gala to Honor Department’s History and Contributions to Theatre and Screen
Alumni and distinguished guests will gather April 26 and 27 for a gala weekend celebrating the 75th anniversary of The Catholic University of America’s legendary Department of Drama (CUADrama).
CUADrama veteran and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Michael Cristofer, who has most recently been seen as Jerry Rand, husband to Anjelica Houston’s character Eileen, on NBC’s “Smash,” will serve as honorary chairman for the weekend. Helen Hayes Award-winning actress Halo Wines and former CUADrama Chair William H. Graham Sr. will serve as honorary co-chairpersons for the gala.
|Michael Cristofer is honorary chairman of the weekend.|
The celebration features:
Friday, April 26
• Panel discussions (acting, directing, playwriting, dramaturgy), 1 to 4 p.m.
• Pre-show champagne reception and performance of Ken Ludwig's “Shakespeare in Hollywood,” 8 p.m.
Saturday, April 27
• Panel discussions, 1 to 4 p.m.
• Afternoon tours of Hartke Theatre
• Kaffee Klatsch, social gathering, 1 to 4 p.m.
• 75 Years of Excellence: A Celebration of CUADrama and Post-Show Gala Reception including entertainment, Club Callan, wine bar, and more, 7 p.m.
Among the earliest University drama programs in the nation, and one of the first on a Catholic campus, CUADrama was founded in 1937 as a graduate division within CUA’s English department. Under the guidance of the program’s founding chair, Rev. Gilbert V. Hartke, O.P., together with Josephine Callan and the talents of Walter Kerr and Leo Brady, the Department of Speech and Drama quickly gained national prominence as a center of excellence in theatrical training.
“The theatre community realized that there was something special happening within the drama program here,” says Gail Stewart Beach, drama department chair. “Those early decades established a legacy of practical training and dedication to students that carries through to this day.”
A belief that students should learn the profession by hearing from and working in collaboration with professionals led to a host of stars of stage and screen spending time at CUA — a tradition that continues as working alumni return to provide lectures and master classes for students.
In October 2009, acclaimed Broadway actors Philip Bosco, B.A. 1957, and Robert Milli, B.A. 1960, performed dramatic readings from George Bernard Shaw plays as part of an international conference hosted by the University.
George M. Cohan, Orson Welles, Carol Channing, and Julie Haydon all spent time at CUA. Most notably, Helen Hayes made her final stage appearance at the Hartke Theatre playing Mary Tyrone in a 1971 production of Eugene O’Neil’s classic “Long Day’s Journey into Night.”
CUADrama alumni are working in every branch of the entertainment industry and the department counts among its ranks winners of the Academy, Tony, and Emmy awards as well as the Pulitzer Prize. Drama graduates have made numerous contributions to theatre, film, and television as accomplished actors, directors, writers, managers, designers, and producers.
CUADrama veterans have gone on to form and strengthen theatre companies in D.C., New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and beyond. St. Michael’s Playhouse in Colchester, Vt., the Olney Theatre Center in Maryland, and National Players, the nation’s longest running touring company, which will begin its 65th tour this spring, all trace their roots back to CUADrama, Father Hartke, and the department’s alumni.
The early successes of the National Players tours led to a partnership with the U.S. Department of Defense to bring American theatre to people living in countries such as Korea, Romania, and Poland. The partnership and tours continued from 1951 until the collapse of communism and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
The CUADrama legacy also reaches into academia — graduates have established themselves as educators and innovators in both secondary and higher education.
“One of Father Hartke’s earliest goals was to train teachers who would then go out and teach a whole new generation of professionals,” Beach adds. “That goal continues with the department’s graduate program in theatre education, the only program of its kind in the Washington, D.C., area, which we established in 2007.”
To arrange for interviews or to cover the events, contact Katie Lee or Janice Colvin in the Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.