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The Theatre Arts at UTA began over seventy years ago when Dean George L. Dickey, who was working for the WPA Federal Theatre Project in Fort Worth, recommended a young actor/director named Richard Slaughter to his colleagues in the Fine Arts Department of North Texas Agricultural College. NTAC, which would one day become UTA, had three departments in the Fine Arts area circa 1936: Music, Art, and Speech. As a Speech teacher, Slaughter was in charge of play production. He wasted no time and produced a melodrama entitled Virtues Rewarded at the old Arlington City Hall. For a number of years Slaughter produced plays without benefit of a proper stage. Many plays were staged on a platform that folded up against the south wall located in the old gym. By 1938, Slaughter finally had a permanent structure to present plays on campus. "The Music Hall" was an old two-story house with a small stage built on the second story. Slaughter staged comedies, melodramas, and dramas in this venue. He directed three or four productions a year in addition to his Speech and theatre teaching duties. Incidentally, the only theatre class at the time was named Little Theatre. The first classes were small, sometimes consisting of only four students, but soon they grew into the forties.
Slaughter ceased to be a one-man department in 1942 when Margaret Cameron joined the faculty. Slaughter and Cameron soon were responsible for NTAC's Speech majors that included Persis Hopkins, Nita Scheble, and Charles Proctor. All three would become major players in the success of the Speech and Theatre Department. Persis Hopkins Forster become a long-time instructor at NTAC and UTA. She also founded her own school of dance in Arlington. Nita Scheble Cox became an honor student and Valedictorian who taught at NTAC/UTA for close to forty years. Charles Proctor succeeded Slaughter as Director of Theatre, a position Slaughter had held for thirty-six years.
The present theatre structure, built in 1967, was incorporated into the Fine Arts Complex in 1972. By that time the Fine Arts Department had split into Art and Music with Theatre/Speech being transferred to the English department then later moved into the Communications Department. Under the Department of Communications, Charles Proctor served as Director of Theatre from 1972 to 1989. In 1989, Theatre Arts become a freestanding program within the College of Liberal Arts. Joe Kongevick succeeded Proctor as director and served as the new department's Chair from 1989-1991 and 1995-1999. Dr. Dennis Maher served as Chair from 1991-1995. The current Chair, Kim A. LaFontaine, took over in 1999.
The Department of Theatre Arts currently has over 15 extremely talented faculty/staff members serving the academic and practical needs of the department's over 100 majors. The department currently offers a B.A. and B.F.A in Theatre, as well as a minor.
Mainstage Theatre 2009
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