History of the Theatre Department
The Early Years
Navarro College Theatre’s history begins with the founding of the college itself, in 1946. That year, M. S. Cook, Navarro College English instructor, founded the Curtain Club with the intent of producing plays and engendering in the student body an appreciation for dramatic literature. The first production mounted by the Curtain Club was Our Town, by Thornton Wilder. Mr. Cook’s wife, affectionately known as “Cookie,” actually directed the plays, but Mr. Cook served as the Curtain Club’s sponsor for years, and one of his favorite duties was to serve hot Dr. Pepper during intermissions.
Theatre productions began to be presented in a small arena theatre in 1959, on the second floor of the Albritton Administration Building. Mr. and Mrs. Cook continued to produce plays in that space until the late 1960’s, when an invigorated Edwina White assumed the role of director. Her technical director was Richard Lancaster, who had served in that position for the Cooks for several years. In the 1970’s, theatre director Charles Simpson preferred to produce plays in the proscenium configuration, so most productions were mounted in Dawson Auditorium. The arena theatre was converted into a Radio/Television production studio in the 1980’s. David Evans served as theatre director during the late 1980’s and into the early 1990’s. The Theatre Department lay dormant from 1995- Spring 2001, and Dr. Shellie O’Neal assumed the position of Theatre Director in the fall of 2001.
The New Century
Throughout the past nineteen years, the NC Theatre Department has enjoyed significant growth and artistic exploration. Productions of the past nineteen seasons have included classics such as Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Noel Coward’s Hay Fever, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and Agatha Christie’s Murder at the Vicarage, but lesser known works, including one-act plays by Anton Chekhov, Michael Green, and David Ives, have also been mounted. Melodramas, reader’s theatre shows, and original works written by Dr. O’Neal and the theatre students have also been produced, allowing the student to experience a variety of theatre genres. Productions have been mounted in numerous venues on and off-campus, including Dawson Auditorium (a 400-seat proscenium theatre), and the Black Box Theatre (which seats 100 in an arena configuration, and 82 in a thrust configuration). The Theatre Department was given a home when it moved into the Radio/TV Studio that had first served as the campus’s arena theatre (it is now called the Black Box Theatre). Other performances have been given outdoors behind the Gooch One-Stop Student Center, some have been given in the atrium of the Cook Education Center, while others have been mounted outdoors behind the Gooch One-Stop Student Center. Another performance venue is the medieval pageant wagon built by theatre students in 2007, which has been used for two different productions in performances in three different locations. The purpose of offering performances in various spaces is to give the theatre student the experience of working in different environments, and to expose the audience member to diverse theatre experiences.
All Good Things
A traveling troupe was founded in 2005 and was named NC4T (Navarro College Theatre Traveling Troupe of Troubadours). The group gave its first performance at Corsicana’s Bowie Elementary School in October 2005, of five of Aesop’s Fables. This group serves as the Theatre Department’s ambassador to the community and performs for elementary schools and service organizations such as the Kiwanis Club and the Rotary Club. In 2019, Dr. Shellie O’Neal’s play, 911 Gnomes: A Christmas Emergency, was one of 20 plays chosen worldwide to be performed at the RAVE Theater Festival in New York City. Ken Davenport, a Tony award-winning Broadway producer, produced the festival. Nine Navarro College Theatre students and NC Theatre alumni gave five performances of Dr. O’Neal’s play at the La Tea Theatre in the Clemente Cultural Center on NYC’s Lower East Side. Since 2001, the Theatre Department has offered the following courses: DRAM 1220, 1221, 2220, 2121 (Theatre Practicum), DRAM 1310 (Introduction to Theatre), DRAM 1330 (Stage Craft), DRAM 1341 (Stage Makeup), DRAM 1351 (Acting I), DRAM 1352 (Acting II), DRAM 2336 (Voice for the Theatre), DRAM 2366 (Introduction to Cinema). Dr. Daryl Worley, adjunct theatre instructor, began offering online theatre courses in the Spring of 2007, and this move boosted enrollment for the Theatre Department. Dr. Worley also teaches the popular Introduction to Cinema courses where students enjoy watching films on the large screen in the planetarium.