SIUC Theater Department
A number of resources in faculty collections at Morris Library's Special Collections Research Center document the activities of the Theater Department of Southern Illinois University Carbondale. Founded in 1958, the Theater Department was originally chaired by Archibald McLeod, who was its only faculty member at the time. McLeod developed courses on acting, directing, playwriting, dance, set design, costuming, and makeup. It was not long before the department grew to include Mordecai Gorelik, Darwin Reid Payne, and Christian Hollis Moe. Performers Katherine Dunham and Marjorie Lawrence also contributed to the Theater Department for a time.
The SIUC Theater archives were collected and organized by Vincent Rhomberg and Steven Looten, Jr., in preparation for the 40th anniversary of the department, which was celebrated in April, 2006. Previously, artifacts had been stored randomly in cardboard boxes in a basement closet area. A flood in the 1980s damaged some of the earlier collection. The collection at present represents careful and loving work to preserve this history.
Christian Moe earned his Ph.D. from Cornell University before joining the SIUC Theater Department faculty from 1958 to 1997. He developed and headed the playwriting program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and served as department chair and director of graduate studies and co-executive director of the McLeod Summer Playhouse. A member of the dramatist guild, he authored and co-authored twelve produced or published plays, winning several awards for his writing. He also co-authored four books including Creating Historical Drama and Eight Plays for Youth. He directed nearly a hundred plays, some produced in outdoor theaters and summer stock companies. SIUC's laboratory theater is named in his honor, and he cofounded The Stage Company in Carbondale, Illinois. As Professor Emeritus of Theater, he continues to write, direct community theater, and teach.
Theater Department archival materials include original plays written by Moe and his students from 1959 to 1994. Moe also donated photographs depicting plays presented by the Southern Players, the New Salem State Park Kelso Hollow Theater, and the Department of Theater's international play writing competition in 1972.
American theater history has been documented by several professors at SIUC, including Dr. Anne Fletcher, Professor of Theatre History and Dramaturgy. In addition to her fascinating biography Rediscovering Mordecai Gorelik: Scene Design and the American Theatre (SIU Press, 2009), and texts on dramaturgy and theater appreciation (with SIU alumnus Scott R. Irelan), Fletcher's forthcoming works explore American playwrights of the 1930s and the Theatre Union, the first professional workers theater company in the United States (with Dr. Cheryl Black, University of Missouri).
Dance at SIUC was enlivened from 1964 to 1965, when Katherine Dunham served as artist-in-residence at SIUC, choreographing Gounod's Faust. Recently retired Associate Professor of Dance Donna Wilson later kept dance alive by developing the dance minor and serving as faculty advisor and artistic director for the Southern Illinois Dance Company, which performed in the Furr Auditorium, located in Pulliam Hall.
Related Theater Department materials include a 1967 audio interview by Don Michel for his Insight radio program with William Taylor, the general director of the Southern Illinois University Summer Music Theater. Taylor discusses planned productions using college and high school performers, including Carousel, On the Town, Carnival, and Kiss Me, Kate.
Among the financial awards offered to theater students at SIUC are several honoring faculty. The Christian H. Moe Playwriting Awards are presented for the best short and long plays on Honors Day. The Mordecai Gorelik Award for Excellence in Scenic Design honors a graduating senior or graduate student who has demonstrated excellence in scenic design.
Fletcher, Anne. 2009. Rediscovering Mordecai Gorelik: Scene Design and the American Theatre. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Moe, Christian Hollis, and Darwin Reid Payne. 1971. 6 new plays for children. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Moe, Christian, and Jay E. Raphael. 1974. A Bibliography of Theatrical Craftsmanship, 1973.
Moe, Christian Hollis, and R. Eugene Jackson. 1991. Eight plays for youth: varied theatrical experiences for stage and study. New York: P. Lang.
Moe, Christian Hollis. 2004. Masterplots II: drama series. Pasadena, Calif: Salem Press.
Moe, Christian Hollis, Scott J. Parker, and George McCalmon. 2005. Creating historical drama: a guide for communities, theatre groups, and playwrights. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.
Rossini, Jon D. 2008. Contemporary Latina/o theater: wrighting ethnicity. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois University Press.
Schanke, Robert A. 2007. Angels in the American theater: patrons, patronage, and philanthropy. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.