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School of Drama celebrates 100 years of stage and screen magic

The School of Drama's first-ever production was the William Shakespeare comedy _The Two Gentleman of Verona_, directed by Thomas Wood Stevens. In the hundred years since its founding, the School of Drama has added the distinction of being the oldest degree-granting drama program in the United States to its long list of accolades. (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta) The School of Drama's first-ever production was the William Shakespeare comedy _The Two Gentleman of Verona_, directed by Thomas Wood Stevens. In the hundred years since its founding, the School of Drama has added the distinction of being the oldest degree-granting drama program in the United States to its long list of accolades. (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta) In 1927. amidst the hubbub of the roaring '20s, the School of Drama staged of production of what is arguably William Shakespeare's most somber play, _King Lear_, directed by E. Martin Browne. At the time, Browne also worked with poet T.S. Eliot to produce some of the author's plays. Performing the titular Lear, who descends into madness after dismissing the only daughter out of his three who loved him too much to flatter his ego, is considered one of the greatest accomplishments an actor can acieve. (credit: Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Archives, Hunt Library) In 1927. amidst the hubbub of the roaring '20s, the School of Drama staged of production of what is arguably William Shakespeare's most somber play, _King Lear_, directed by E. Martin Browne. At the time, Browne also worked with poet T.S. Eliot to produce some of the author's plays. Performing the titular Lear, who descends into madness after dismissing the only daughter out of his three who loved him too much to flatter his ego, is considered one of the greatest accomplishments an actor can acieve. (credit: Courtesy of Carnegie Mellon University Archives, Hunt Library) The School of Drama's 2010-11 season included a dreamy production of the William Shakespeare comedy, _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, directed by Don Wadsworth. The magical world of the play, complete with fairy kings and queens, was well-evoked in the set's design. (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta) The School of Drama's 2010-11 season included a dreamy production of the William Shakespeare comedy, _A Midsummer Night's Dream_, directed by Don Wadsworth. The magical world of the play, complete with fairy kings and queens, was well-evoked in the set's design. (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta) The School of Drama kicked off their 2012-13 season with Richard Brinsley's classic comedy of manners, _The Rivals_, directed by visiting British director Annie Tyson. The play's most popular character, Mrs. Malaprop, who often comedically misuses words, is the source of the English word "malapropism." (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta) The School of Drama kicked off their 2012-13 season with Richard Brinsley's classic comedy of manners, _The Rivals_, directed by visiting British director Annie Tyson. The play's most popular character, Mrs. Malaprop, who often comedically misuses words, is the source of the English word "malapropism." (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta) The School of Drama's 2011-12 season featured a production of the pioneering dramatist Bertolt Brecht's musical, _The Good Person of Setzuan_, directed by visiting German director Peter Kleinert with music directed by Jurgen Beyer.  (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta) The School of Drama's 2011-12 season featured a production of the pioneering dramatist Bertolt Brecht's musical, _The Good Person of Setzuan_, directed by visiting German director Peter Kleinert with music directed by Jurgen Beyer. (credit: Courtesy of Dennis Schebetta)

There’s no business like show business, and nobody knows that better than the School of Drama. In celebration of its 100th birthday, the School of Drama threw a party for its students, alumni, and faculty to reconnect over dancing, desserts, and drinks at the Purnell Center for the Arts this Saturday following the evening showing of The Wild Party.

The party was a production; the lobby was transformed into a spectacle of bright neon lights and loud music to set the mood for festive networking and reconnecting. It was the first in a series of anniversary parties, with celebrations in New York City and Los Angeles later this year.

The School of Drama has plenty to be excited about. Founded in 1914 as the first degree-granting theatrical program in the United States, the school was part of an effort to develop a higher level of serious, professional theater by producing classically trained actors, stage technicians, and directors that could take the art to new heights.

Since its founding, the School of Drama has changed as the theater and entertainment sector has grown dramatically and come to take a different place in society. After all, 100 years ago, moving pictures were new, electronic lights in theaters were exciting, and the forerunner of absurdist theatre, playwright George Feydeau, was in his prime. As the turn of the century allowed more time and money to be spent on entertainment, theaters on Broadway were just beginning to gain momentum, and the first films were being produced in Hollywood. American theatre was taking off. Theatre of the past — low-level community entertainment in churches, nightclubs, and small stages — was being transformed into high-class productions to entertain a new class of people.

The School of Drama has played an integral role within this evolution of theatre, and continues to be a powerhouse within the entertainment world. In an age of entertainment, we are surrounded by movies, performances, and TV shows. The School of Drama works to allow its students to understand the changing role of entertainment in society, and to be a part of it.

Equally important as developing their excellence, designers and directors are helping young actors make a break in a notoriously cut-throat job market. With events such as the Centennial, the School of Drama builds connections in show business. It helps that finding famous School of Drama alumni is really no more difficult than watching an awards show. This past year alone, no less than eight Carnegie Mellon alumni brought home Tony Awards, and two more won Emmys. While more people have heard of the famous actors that are alumni, such as Matt Bomer (BFA, ‘00) of White Collar and Zachary Quinto (BFA,’99), designers and directors have had at least equal achievements in pushing productions to new levels.

For a program with such deep legacy and such a strong network of alumni, the focus now is on what the future holds. Peter Cooke, the head of the School of Drama since 2009, has talked about pushing the capacity of the School of Drama by embracing Carnegie Mellon’s interdisciplinary approach to work with the more technical side of the university.

The Centennial celebrations speak to the School of Drama’s focus on fostering a close community of students, alumni, and faculty raising the next generation of performance.