Theatre at Appalachian State Teachers College became organized in 1929 when Professor Antonios Antonakos joined the faculty to teach physics and chemistry. He quickly organized a drama club that was finally approved as Playcrafters in 1933. The organization grew and became very active, entering and often winning a statewide competition at Chapel Hill. In 1946 English teacher Cratis Williams took over the direction of Playcrafters, and in 1946 established the Lambda Zeta chapter of Alpha Psi Omega, National honorary dramatic society. During the 1950s Playcrafters was largely led by students with several different faculty advisors.
A new era began for theatre at Appalachian in 1959 with the arrival of David French in the English Department as director of drama and advisor to Playcrafters. He was the first person to teach at Appalachian with a graduate degree in theatre. In 1963, the speech and theatre areas separated from English to become the Department of Speech. French taught theatre classes and other teachers in the new department assisted with the direction of plays. The administration building housing the department and the auditorium burned in 1966, and the department moved into the old Appalachian High School building, now renamed Chapell Wilson Hall.
In 1967 Appalachian became Appalachian State University and French started a summer theatre in 1968. French committed suicide in March of 1970 without seeing his dream of a Fine Arts Center built on campus. Charles Porterfield took over as chair of the Speech Department and Ed Pilkington and Charles Martin were hired to teach theatre classes and share the theatre production program. They established the Appalachian Young Peoples Theatre in the spring of 1971 and Mountaineer Playhouse that summer. Martin left in 1973 and was replaced by Pete Rose as technical director. Linda Welden also arrived to teach oral interpretation, and she also directed Readers Theatre productions. Students received the BS degree with certification in both Speech and Theatre.
Susan Cole joined the theatre area in 1975 as Director of Theatre. The Speech Department moved into Wey Hall in 1976, leaving the theatre area with 3 faculty members in Chapell Wilson. Jonathan Ray was added in 1981 to teach acting and childrens theatre. Frank Mohler joined the faculty in 1983 as a replacement for the scenic and lighting designer and technical director. A new position in 1987 brought Martha Marking to Appalachian to teach costume and serve as costume designer. The next year Teresa Lee replaced Ray. After years of planning, theatre and dance were combined into a separate department in 1989 with five theatre and one dance faculty members plus Linda Welden who moved from Communication Arts to Theatre and Dance. Susan Cole became the first chair of the new department. A new position was created in 1992 and Joel Williams arrived to fill it.
Chapell Wilson Auditorium was renovated into the Valborg Theatre and opened on April 13, 1994.
The department grew with more majors and more faculty, Susan Lutz in dance in 1996, a separate scenic designer in 2000. Replacements for retiring faculty began in 2001 when Derek Gagnier replaced Ed Pilkington. In 2004, Paulette Marty replaced Frank Mohler in theatre history, Gordon Hensley replaced Linda Welden and Jeromy Hopgood replaced the scenic and lighting designer. In 2005, Ray Miller arrived to replace Susan Cole as chair of the department and three new faculty positions were filled by Sue Williams, Emily Daughtridge, and Kin-Yan Szeto. The department had grown from two teachers in 1970 to thirteen in 2005 and offered a BS and three BA degrees.
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