Old school photo: Drake theatre in the 70s

The Harmon Fine Arts Center—FAC to those who know and love it—turns 40 in 2012, and in 1972 Drake University kicked off a yearlong “Festival of the Arts.” Throughout the year, people filled the $6.1 million building, featuring the 593-seat Hall of the Performing Arts, rehearsal space and a $113,000 pipe organ. Productions included “The Fantasticks,” “Stop the World I Want to Get Off” and a performance by the renowned Nikolais Dance Theatre.

Students also performed “Oedipus Rex,” which required both the scenery and audience to be encased in a massive plastic bag, as pictured above. The set was then placed on display at the Science Center to demonstrate the principle of aerodynamics.

On March 1, students will perform a thespian classic, Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” in FAC’s Hall of the Performing Arts. Tickets are $6 for adults and $4 for students, seniors and those with a Drake I.D. For tickets, call the Drake Fine Arts Box Office at 515-271-3841.

4 Responses to “Old school photo: Drake theatre in the 70s”

  1. LindaRobbinsColeman Reply 27. Feb, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    That was a brilliant show, directed by William S. E. Coleman who was Chair of the Theatre Department at that time. It was performed on March 23-26, 1973, and I was lucky enough to see it. 

    The script by Sophocles was adapted from six different translations of the play by William S. E. Coleman.

    Original electronic music and music settings for chorus were done by Music Professor Gerald Lloyd. 
    Scene Design was by John Middleton, 
    Lighting Design was by Matthew Grant, 
    Costumes were designed by Patricia Campbell, 
    Make-up design was by Henry Pisciotta, and 
    Choreography was by Irene J. Gordon. The Cast:Oedipus – Tom StanfieldCreon – Martin W. RubenTiresias – Scott Jay SidellJocasta – Kathy M. DavidsonFirst Messenger – Michael BryantShepherd – Jon DennisAntigone – Karen FisherIsmene – Libby TullyPriest – Randall M. LissThe Chorus: Thomas Ward, Beth Fowler, Hal Proppe III, Julianne Ramaker, Steve Poole, Alicemary Rasley,Dancers and Citizens – Stuart E. Smith, Joan Ava Gilbert, Evelyn Levenson, Lindsay RussellSoldiers, Marc Schwartz, Rick MoranI was invited to see this by Tom Stanfield. He and I had been friends from junior high on, and I helped him learn his lines for this demanding role. I was friends with others in the department as well. Tom sticks out in my mind as being especially brilliant, but then again, so was everyone. I can still close my eyes and see the production. It influenced/influences me to this day as to how I see theatre.On a personal note: Even though I didn’t know Doc Coleman at the time, when I saw this production I realized he was someone special, and that the Theatre Department was vibrant, alive, and a special place to be. I also knew that I wanted to be part of this type of experience, and as more than just an audience member. As a result, when I had a chance to meet him a few years later and found out that he was single and interested in me, it seemed like destiny that we would be together and I would marry him. And, 35 years ago next month, I did just that.  And was I able to participate in theatre as something other than an audience member? Having scored 35 plays in twenty years, I guess I can say that I did. What a wonderful ride it has been.

  2. Wow – does this bring back some eeeery memories, Linda!!!  Thank you for listing the entire cast – as a 2nd semester freshman at the time, I was honored to be cast in then Department Chairman Doc Coleman’s production in this very innovative and creative production.  This was the beginning of new materials being introduced to theatre production.  Although, many of us wondered if the glue used on the styrofoam rocks, etc would harm us.   I played the obligatory “spear carrier” along with fellow freshman, Rick Moran.  As I recall, neither of us were very thrilled about being made up with very dark, black makeup base….a real “bummer” to remove! (Hey, it was during my freshman year that I learned that term from David H Jones, Technical Director of Drake Theatre!)  The giant “baggie” that we performed in, although interesting, was not exactly well ventilated…that and the solid black base we were wearing often made things a bit uncomfortable!  Yes, I know, suffer for your art. Rick and I stood for the entire show – as I recall it was just under an hour!!!  It is indeed nice to be able to say that I once played a “spear carrier” for real!  The cast was quite good and it was a great learning experience for me as a freshman theatre arts major.  We were all quite exhausted by the end of the run…..And then, on the planned last night, Doc ran into each dressing room screaming that we would extend another 3 performances…..As we all rushed to the door of the dressing room to clubber Doc, we could hear the girls in the next dressing room screaming…..NO!!!   But, we did live through the extension.  I’m amazed that I can remember all this as I haven’t thought about the production in years……but it was all part of that amazing first year in the new Fine Arts Center (FAC) 1972-1973. 

    As my interest in lighting and sound design was cultivated by Jones, etc…..the freshman class literally put together each new space that year…..connectors (plugs) had to be installed on all of our new lighting equipment, dimming equipment (state of the art for 1972) was also installed…much of it by David H. himself….unpacking of chairs, risers, equipment…my fellow freshman theatre majors and I did it all.  The use of the famous “cloud” in the Performing Arts Hall (PAH) and wondering if it would really stay afloat.  We knew even then that it wasn’t a perfect building – but it was home for 4 years.  A planned proscenium theatre that was to be built off the scene shop on 24th St  (where the old costume house once stood) was never built due to lack of funding…although it was promised, but never happened. 

    My other main interest was and still is Musical Theatre….and I was again honored to be a part of the 2 repertory musicals, THE FANTASTICKS and STOP THE WORLD, I WANT TO GET OFF! under the direction of Gary Hobbs. (April, May, 1973) -Studio Theatre.  I was the rehearsal accompanist for both shows and would eventually end up on the lighting crew for the productions.  The year after I graduated Drake, I was cast as the boy in THE FANTASTICKS in a production in Chicago….Tom Stanfield’s brillant portrayl of the boy just 4 years earlier was still stuck in my head….but I do recall Doc telling us in Directing that it was okay to “borrow something” from another’s performance if it worked!

    Of the 2 young men in the picture….the one on the left is Michael Arnon who was a sophomore at the time….he left Drake during the first semester of his junior year….a great technician and my lab assistant in Stagecraft.

    Those were very special times and I think about them often, wishing we could all go back there and relive SOME of those moments.

    Thanks, Linda for sharing your personal memories of this memorable production from an audience member’s viewpoint and your meeting Doc. 

  3. Oh Linda, I too have very distinctive memories of O-Rex. Evelyn Levenson was roommates with Jan Schwab who was a great friend when I was an Art Major (for a short time) and they dragged me happily to every Theatre production. That next year I became a Theatre major, Tom Stanfield became my best friend at Drake, and Irene Gordon and Karen Fisher were my new neighbors. I remember such great people – Nikki Karne (sp?) Jane Upton, Paula Lenski, Mark Bell, and just about everyone you mentioned above. Tell Doc hello and that I have very distinctive memories of ‘Peter Grey’ – I was just getting back in touch with Stephanie Garry on fb. Oh, and I remember you too!! Thanks for keeping all of us connected. Take care, both of you! Michael

  4. As the actor who played Ismene (Libby Tully Vanderwall) I recall a performance when a big gob of the goo used on Oedipus to show he had put out his eyes, dropped onto my head as Antigone (Karen Fisher) and I were wailing at his feet.  Karen and I used to sit backstage before our 2nd act entrance and stick our fingers in our eyes to stimulate tears for our emotional entrance.  Rick Vanderwall (my very cute husband) helped build the bag.  Looks like Mike Arnon on the left in this old school photo.  It was a cool production – it was a great experience to work with Doc.