9/20/2004

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Contact: Charla Jenkins, University Theatre, (785) 864-2684

KU Theatre for Young People celebrates 50th anniversary

LAWRENCE -- The golden anniversary of the University of Kansas Theatre for Young People will be celebrated Oct. 1 and 2 with a reunion, guest speakers and performances of "Still Life With Iris" and "Amber Waves."

Speakers will make presentations at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1 and 2, before the 8 p.m. curtain of "Amber Waves," by KU alumnus James Still.

Nathaniel S. Eek, former director of KU's Experimental Theatre and the emeritus director of the School of Drama and former dean of fine arts at the University of Oklahoma, will discuss the "Origins of KU-TYP" Friday, while Still will speak on "Why TYP Matters to KU" on Saturday. Both presentations are in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre.

A third performance of "Amber Waves" is at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3. The fall KU-TYP production, "Still Life With Iris," will be staged at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. All performances are in the Crafton-Preyer Theatre.

Children's theatre at KU began in 1954. The University Players, a student group, staged "Rumpelstiltskin," directed by senior Mark Gilman, in the Studio Theatre in Green Hall in March, and "Huckleberry Finn," directed by senior Sally Six, celebrated the City of Lawrence˙s Centennial in July.

That fall, Eek and by then graduate student Sally Six Hersh submitted a formal proposal to Allen Crafton, Speech and Drama Department chairman, to introduce children's theatre and creative drama into the speech and drama degree program.

In 1955, "Land of the Dragon," the first department-sponsored production of children's theatre at KU, was directed and designed by Hersh as her master˙s project. After receiving her degree in 1955, Hersh taught children's theatre and creative drama courses. When she left in 1958 for further graduate study, Bea Brady Harvey, former drama teacher at Lawrence High School, became the program director, broadening its performing reach to Wichita and Topeka.

In 1960, Jed H. Davis began his 26-year tenure as director of the University Children's Theatre, expanding the scope and stature of the program and adding annual tours to Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. In 1967 he established a paid touring company of student actors, KU Theatre for Young People.

In 1978 the graduate program was nationally recognized when it was named a Winifred Ward School. Three graduates students were named Winifred Ward Scholars -- Roger Bedard in 1978, Jeanne Klein in 1985 and Toni Molloy Tudor in 1987. In 1989 the Association for Communication Administration named KU˙s doctoral emphasis in children˙s theatre the top program in the nation.

After Davis retired in 1986, Klein became the director of Theatre for Young People. In addition to the two annual productions for grades 1-3 and 4-6 on the Crafton-Preyer Theatre stage, post-performance drama workshops are offered to area schools in lieu of touring shows, and local elementary students may enroll in after-school drama classes.

Six nationally award-winning reception studies with local elementary school students have explored the visual and verbal meanings children derive from theatre performances: "Don Quixote of La Mancha" in 1987, "Monkey, Monkey" in 1989, "Noodle Doodle Box" in 1990, "This Is Not a Pipe Dream" in 1992, "Crying to Laugh" in 1993 and "Dinosaurus" in 2002.

For additional information about the KU-TYP 50th anniversary celebration, contact Klein at (785) 864-5576. Tickets for "Still Life With Iris" and "Amber Waves" are on sale at the University Theatre Ticket Office, (785) 864-3982, or on-line at http://www.kutheatre.com.

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