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Theatre Arts



Courses pertaining to public performance - speaking, acting, interpretive reading, debate and other activities - may be traced to 1855, the first year of classes at the University of Iowa. According to H. Clay Harshbarger's paper, "Some Highlights of the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art," cited in Related Materials below, one of the nine departments of the University in 1855 was Intellectual Philosophy, "embracing Intellectual Philosophy, Logic, Rhetoric, Oratory, and Elements of Criticism. By 1900, courses in "expression in voice and action," "literary interpretation" and the "function of imagination and dramatic instinct in expression" appeared in the University's general catalog. The arrival of Edward Charles Mabie in the summer of 1920 as a professor of speech was a significant turning point in the development of performance art at UI. Mabie was named head of the newly named Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts in 1925, a position he held for over 30 years, until his death in 1956. During this period instruction in theatre arts at the University of Iowa expanded substantially, highlighted by the dedication of the Theatre Building in 1936, Mabie's leadership as a regional director of the Federal Theatre Project, and a considerable expansion of the department's curriculum. At various times in its history the department's name has encompassed several disciplines: dramatic art, theatre arts, public speaking, and communication studies. The Harshbarger paper and other works cited below discuss in more detail the administrative history of the program, its relationship with other academic programs, and its numerous name changes through the years.