1945: Department of Drama Formed
The first meeting of the Saskatchewan Drama League was held in Regina in March 1933. Their stated aim was “to assist in the development of the art of the theatre in the Province...and to promote a right relation between drama and the life of the community.” “Probably 60 people” were in attendance, “including the Premier, who strongly supported the work.”
Although they had made considerable advances, including the establishment of a 600-volume lending library of plays, by 1939 the League, run by volunteers, felt it lacked sufficient organization ability to expand. They believed “progress” could “best be made through affiliation with the University.
For its part, the University offered to provide a “spiritual home” for “the drama movement.” President James Thomson was hoping to further University extension services “through a broad programme of adult education,” and viewed cooperation with the League as furthering that aim. The University appointed Katherine McConechy as secretary to the League, for an eight-month term, and were pleased enough with the results that she was re-hired on subsequent terms. By 1943, with help from a Rockefeller Foundation grant, they had hired Helen Stewart on a part-time basis as an Instructor, to train leaders and promote “a policy for wide drama education in the province.”
By September 1944, Helen Stewart had decided to marry and asked to be released from her contract. Two months’ earlier Emrys Jones had expressed interest in coming to work for the University, and–much to Thomson’s relief–was still available.
By this time, Thomson’s view of the University and drama education had undergone a shift: Jones’ chief responsibilities “would be the teaching of Drama in its more academic and cultural aspects, with the hope of establishing Dramatics as a worthy part of an integrated programme in the Fine Arts.”1 At the time of his appointment, Emrys Jones was the first full-time professor of drama at a Commonwealth university;2 and his Department was the “only university department in Canada devoted solely to the teaching of drama.”3 Jones remained Head of the department until 1971, and retired from the University in 1973.
Department of Drama fonds, RG 2036.
1945a: detail from costume plot. Department of Drama fonds.
1. All quotations to this point from President’s Office Records, series II, file B-55.