Bridgewater College students have been treading the boards for over one hundred years of College theatre.
The earliest theatrical performances on campus were likely short variety events such as recitations staged and hosted in the early 20th century by Bridgewater College’s popular literary societies. A Bridgewater College Shakespeare Club formed around 1907. The first Bridgewater College organized full-length theatrical performance recorded in the College archives was their Merchant of Venice study.
Photographs of Evangeline, the circa 1913 Bridgewater College sophomore class play, are the earliest photographed images of an organized theatrical production found in the Bridgewater College archives. Bridgewater College students, especially juniors and seniors, continued to stage annual plays within their class years into the mid-20th century. In addition, the Bridgewater College Glee Clubs, directed by Nelson T. Huffman (BC Class of 1925) and accompanied by Ruth E. Weybright were important and very popular producers of musical theatre and ensemble performances on campus in the mid 20th century.
Speech and Dramatics Professor Mildred B. Hahn organized a “Curtain Club of Bridgewater College” in the autumn of 1937. In March of 1939, the Eta Upsilon Cast of national theatre honor society Alpha Psi Omega was chartered at Bridgewater College. It has remained active through the present. These newly formed groups were successful in opening participation in theatrical productions to a wider student body than the earlier class plays.
The Curtain Club continued to produce plays in the 1950s and 1960s. Various faculty members directed the Curtain Club productions as part-time endeavors, but especially active in their direction and leadership was Professor Betty S. Geiser, who held a graduate degree in Fine Arts from Yale University.
This time frame also saw the beginning of Hope Jopson’s longtime involvement in technical direction of Bridgewater College theatre. Jopson worked as a volunteer and employee in Bridgewater College theatre for more than three decades, from 1951 until her retirement in 1981.
Following the successful starts of organized theatre programs by Professors Hahn and Geiser, Bridgewater College students lobbied for the hiring of a full-time professor of theatre. These early beloved professors of theatre served to enhance the theatre programs while also teaching subjects such as English, speech and communication.
Bridgewater College employed Frank Fuller in 1963 as the school’s first fulltime theatre professor. Under Professor Fuller, the Curtain Club changed their name to The Pinion Players. Pinion Players remains the student-run College theatrical organization.
Emeritus Professor of Communication Studies, Theatre, and English, Ralph MacPhail Jr. (BC Class of 1965) was Bridgewater College’s second fulltime professor of theatre, serving in the position from 1972 to 2005.
Arriving on campus in autumn 2005, Dr. Scott Cole is the current Associate Professor of Theatre at Bridgewater College.
Theatre at Bridgewater College remains popular as a major and as a student activity. Bridgewater College also currently offers a teaching endorsement in the theatre arts in conjunction with the College’s teacher education program.
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