About the Department: History
The Department of Theatre Arts (formerly the Department of Drama) developed and expanded from course offerings in Speech, and by 1870 there had been developed an annual departmental oratorical contest. Initially, public speaking was an extracurricular activity without credit. On December 5, 1874, however, the University began granting academic credit for this work.
In 1899, public speaking was extended beyond elocution to include review of elementary sounds, position of the body, breathing, production of tone inflection, modulation and emphasis. This work was implemented under the supervision of Coralie Franklin Cook, a graduate of the National School of Oratory, Philadelphia. Such was the beginning of the intensive study of public speaking as an art at the University, although it was not made compulsory until February 8, 1911.
Ernest Everett Just came to the University in 1909 as an instructor of English and, together with a number of students, organized the first drama group, the College Dramatic Club. For several years, this club gave performances annually at the Howard Theatre, a local legitimate theatre in Washington, D.C. The financial success of the College Dramatic Club was evidenced by its donation of a clock to the Andrew Carnegie Library, formerly the School of Religion.