School of Drama celebrates 100 years of stage and screen magic
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.