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August 31, 2016

Shakespeare on the Stage

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The earliest performance of a Shakespeare play on campus that the University Archives could document was Love’s Labour’s Lost, given by the Dramatic Club of the College for Women on January 19 and 20, 1898. The Dramatic Club also performed Twelfth Night in 1910 and The Taming of the Shrew in 1915.

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The Dramatic Club was organized in 1894 originally as The Dramatic Association. The club presented at least 1 play each year, and, until 1902, performed in Guilford House. In 1922 the Dramatic Club changed its name to The Curtain Players. They continued to periodically perform Shakespeare, such as The Winter’s Tale and Romeo and Juliet. They presented A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the Sock and Buskin Club of Adelbert College as part of the University’s Centennial in 1926.

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The Sock and Buskin Club dates to 1908 when the Literary Society of Adelbert College presented a play, Rivals, by Sheridan. The cast then organized Sock and Buskin to present at least 1 play a year, similar to the Dramatic Club. Beginning in 1923, Sock and Buskin began offering more than 1 play. The Archives could not document an earlier presentation of a Shakespeare play (by Sock and Buskin) than the 1926 performance previously mentioned.

There was no theater-related department at WRU during this late 19th and early 20th century time period. The first Dramatic Arts Department was established at the Graduate School in 1931. Barclay Leathem was the first chair of the department. He had originally taught in the English Department (while a Law School student) and moved to the Speech Department in 1927 to teach the first theater classes. He retired in 1971 when he was named Professor Emeritus of Dramatic Arts.

The home of the Theater Department eventually became Eldred Hall. As part of the 50th anniversary of theater in Eldred in 1973-1974, As You Like It was performed.

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1955 program for A Midsummer Night's Dream and 1974 program for As You Like It

See our previous blog posts related to Shakespeare on campus: Shakespeare beginnings on campus, and Shakespeare Performance as part of WRU’s Centennial Celebration.

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August 15, 2016

The only classroom that is available for life - the library – Ralph M. Besse

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At the 1961 dedication of Case Institute of Technology’s (CIT) Library Humanities Building, Ralph M. Besse described the challenge facing higher education in a world of exploding knowledge.

“Yet the dilemma of higher education is that a normal college time span permits only the development of either an undisciplined generalist or a narrowly-trained specialist, and neither is adequately equipped to achieve the objective of leadership in cultural improvement. No such gap in the training of leaders is endurable in a progressive society. If the great constructive goals of democracy are to be achieved, a solution must be found. We cannot long sustain leadership in a world in which competition among ideologies increases as fast as competition for material power if our best human talent is trained in only half of the arts of leadership.”

He went on to point out the role of the library in meeting this challenge.

“The dedication of this great new library suggests one of the answers. Within these walls all of the past and most of the developments of the present are recorded. The educational dilemma could be solved at Case if every one of its graduates were to leave college equipped with the skill of extracting knowledge from a library and motivated by a desire to do so.”

That CIT’s first library building was a Library-Humanities Building symbolized the role envisioned for both in a technical institute.

“This building recognizes two fundamental educational needs. It is a center where students, faculty, and representatives of business, industry and other elements of the community can pursue intellectual and cultural activities in attractive surroundings designed to be conducive to learning... The gallery available for displays, the lecture and seminar rooms, the Kulas Hall of Music and the Kulas Record Library bring together the broad cultural interests of the campus.” (Library-Humanities Building brochure, 1961)

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Library-Humanities Building at the center of the new Case Institute of Technology entrance

The building itself was envisioned as a key component of the New Face of Case. “Located at the mid-point of the campus, the Library-Humanities Building is the most prominent and accessible of all Case buildings.” enthused a 1961 brochure describing the building.

The library originally occupied 34,000 square feet on the first three floors of the 83,345 square foot, six-story, building. It had seating for just under 450. This sounds more impressive when compared to the library reading room in Case Main, which seated thirty-two. The original collection capacity was 160,000 volumes, with growth to 250,000 volumes planned.

Frederick L. Taft, librarian, described some of the technical innovations of the new library in a December 1960 Library Journal article. “... conveyors include a horizontal chain drive conveyor which moves books and other materials to and from the receiving and shipping room; a vertical conveyor which carries books from all the upper floors to the circulation workroom... and a dumbwaiter which lifts books from the lower level bookstack to the circulation workroom... The Stromberg-Carlson Pagemaster system has been installed at the circulation desk. This small radious communications system enables a desk attendant to signal by transistor radio certain staff personnel anywhere in the building. The circulation desk is also equipped with pneumatic tubes which carry call slips to and from page stations on all stack floors. There is provision for photo-duplication services including a darkroom...”

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Kresge Gallery
Other floors had classrooms, seminar rooms, conference rooms and the offices of the departments of Humanities and Social Studies and Mathematics. The lobby of the fourth floor was the home of the Kresge Gallery intended for exhibits relating to the Western Civilization courses, CIT’s art collection, and travelling exhibits.

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Located on the second floor, ”The Kulas Hall of Music, a handsomely furnished 60-by-30 foot lounge, paneled in English oak and teakwood, is a harmoniously designed room where students and visitors may listen to music. The high-fidelity sound equipment permits reproduction of recorded material from magnetic tapes, records and AM and FM radio, either monaurally or stereophonically.” The George Sanford Collection, the core of the music collection, contained over 4,000 albums of classical music.

Building construction began in fall 1959 and ended early in 1961. The total cost of the building was $2.8 million. It was one of several buildings funded through CIT’s $6,500,000 Building Fund Campaign, which raised over $8.3 million. Major donors included the Leonard C. Hanna Jr. Fund, the Kresge Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. David S. Ingalls, Harris-Intertype Corporation, Kulas Foundation. The architect was Small, Smith, Reeb, and Draz and the general contractor was the Sam W. Emerson Company.

In 1966, Lester M. and Ruth P. Sears donated $1 million dollars for the building. It was the single largest non-bequest gift from an individual received by CIT in its nearly 90-year history. In recognition of their generosity, on June 15, 1966 the building was named the Lester M. and Ruth P. Sears Library. The dedication plaque read, “The Lester M. and Ruth P. Sears Library honors the founder of Towmotor and his wife. Lester Sears, innovating engineer, manager and humanitarian and Ruth Sears, his staunch supporter, have set an example for all of us to emulate.”

Sears remained the library for Case Institute of Technology until 1996, when its collections and services were merged with Freiberger Library in the new Kelvin Smith Library.

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August 08, 2016

Shakespeare Performance as part WRU’s Centennial Celebration

Let's continue our summer theme of Shakespeare on campus and in the classroom.

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During commencement week, on June 15 and 16, 1926, students from the Sock and Buskin Club of Adelbert College and the Curtain Players of Mather College performed Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This was part of Western Reserve University’s Centennial Celebration and in dedication of the Shakespeare Garden Theatre (also known as the Municipal Outdoor Theatre) in Rockefeller Park. The theatre was dedicated to Marie Bruot, former drama teacher at Central High School. City Manager William R. Hopkins requested the production. The theatre was on East Boulevard between Superior and St. Clair Avenues.

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Over 1500 watched the performance the first night. Seats were erected on the hillside where part of the audience was seated. Others watched from various vantage points. Spotlights were the only modern stage equipment used.

The play had participation from various groups on and off campus. The costumes were designed by Agnes Brooks Young of the Cleveland Play House and created by Mary Geary and students of the Household Administration Department at Mather College. The choreography of the fairy ensemble was supervised by Muriel East Adams of the Mather College Physical Education Department.

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The music was written by Quincy Porter of the Cleveland Institute of Music and performed by students of the Music School Settlement. Staging and lighting were under the direction of Max Eisenstat from the designs of Archie Lauterer, both of the Cleveland Play House. The director was K. Elmo Lowe, also of the Cleveland Play House. Lowe stated, “When we dedicate the Shakespeare Theatre we want comedy to be the occasion keynote. Just fun for everyone.”

Cast members included: Allen Goldthwaite as Theseus and Doris Young as Hippolyta; Ralph A. Colbert as Lysander, Fred W. Walter as Demetrius, Nadine Miles as Hermia, Fredrica Crane as Helena; Sidney Andorn as Oberon, Eleanor Koob as Titania, Emiah Jane Hopkins as Puck.

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The mechanicals were: John Maurer as Quince, Arlin Cook as Snug, Milton Widder as Bottom, Sterling S. Parker as Flute, Will Carlton as Snout, and Vincent H. Jenkins as Starveling.

The fairies were Katherine M. Squire, Evelyn Fruehauf, Helen Shockey, Lucile McMackin, Gladys M. Benesh, Miriam Cramer, Fay Hart, Alice Sorensen Caroline Hahn. Other parts were played by Sydney Markowitz (Egeus), Richard Barker (Philostrate), Harriette Winch, Helen Bunnell, Robert Glick and Maurice Rusoff (ladies and gentlemen of the Court).

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Titania and several fairies (left), Milton Widder as Bottom portraying Pyramus (right)


Learn about the beginnings of Shakespeare in the classroom.


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