May 17, 2013
Barclay Leathem and the National Theatre Conference
Barclay S. Leathem began teaching in the English Department at Western Reserve University (WRU) in 1921 while a law student. (He received his law degree in 1924.) He moved to the Speech Department in 1927 to teach the first theatre classes at WRU.
Barclay Leathem in the classroom, Western Reserve University, ca.1940
In 1931 Leathem became head of the Dramatic Arts Department in the Graduate School when the graduate program in Drama and Theatre was established. Leathem, Frederic McConnell, and Arthur White (WRU faculty member) had proposed this new graduate program -- a joint program between WRU and the Cleveland Play House.
With McConnell, Leathem was involved in the work of the National Theatre Conference (NTC). The NTC office was housed on the WRU campus beginning in 1937. Leathem served as Executive Secretary 1938-1959. In 1940 he traveled across the country visiting colleges and community theaters. An account of Leathem's trip is covered in the October 1940 issue of the NTC Quarterly Bulletin.
Leathem also served as chairman of the investigation of royalties and play releases. The hope was to make better plays available for amateurs and to educate public school teachers to their use. He also oversaw several projects for the NTC, including the playwriting competition for GIs, the Tryout Studio where new graduates of university and theatre programs would perform before agents and others, the Bulletin quarterly publication, and the play lists for shows performed in army camps during World War II.
Special thanks to Helen Conger, Archivist, Scholarly Resources & Special Collections, Kelvin Smith Library, for creating the content for this post.
For more information about the Cleveland Play House Archives contact the Kelvin Smith Library Special Collections.