History of Theatre at Hartwick
The Little Theatre in Cardboard Alley
The federal works agency built an L-shaped building, which began in February 1947. Cardboard Alley, a temporary academic building named because of its flimsy structure, was dedicated at the Opening Convocation on September 24, 1947. The walls were so flimsy, in fact, that one could punch their hand right through one. The Little Theatre in Cardboard Alley had 78 seats, a cement floor and a wooden stage 8' off the floor. Up until then, plays had been performed in the Fieldhouse (the Men's Basketball Gym) where Shineman Chapel now stands. By July 1947, Cardboard Alley was nearly completed on the site where Clark Hall stands today.
The Cardboard Alley Players and The Lab Theatre
In 1960, Dr. Bruce Kellner arrived at Hartwick to become the college's first head of drama. He wrote the book The Cardboard Alley Players: A History of Their First Nine Years. When Kellner first saw Cardboard Alley, he was inspired to direct "Our Town." However, the first play Kellner did direct in the Little Theatre was "The Misalliance." This is where the Cardboard Alley Players got their name. The following spring, CAP began presenting awards to theatre participants at a banquet. This was the beginning of the Alley Cat Awards. In November of 1962, Dr. Kellner directed "The Thurber Carnival", the first play to have asterisks next to the names of members in its program. From 1964 to 1965, the first plans for the library including an auditorium were devised. On the evening of graduation, May 30, 1967, Slade Theatre was inaugurated with the play "Under Milkwood" by Dylan Thomas. During the 1967-1968 school year, Wilford Casciato was hired to replace Kellner as head of drama at Hartwick. Casciato was instrumental in the acquisition of the Lab Theatre. In 1968-1969, CAP left Cardboard Alley for the Lab Theatre, the old women's gym in the basement of Bresee. The Lab Theatre was inaugurated with "The World is Round" by Armand Salacrou. The "Little Theatre", or Cardboard Alley, was condemned in the late 1970s.
The theatre arts major was instituted at Hartwick in 1977. Dr. David Ferrel left Hartwick in 1984. Ken Golden came to Hartwick in August of 1983 as the director of Technical Theatre. Dr. Duncan Smith joined the Hartwick Theatre staff in 1986. The Hartwick College "Drama House", a special interest house, was established for the 1996-97 school year for the first time. Gary Burlew was hired to work in the technical aspect of Hartwick's theatre and in the Fall of 1997, Bob Bresnick was hired to join him as a professor. They both left in the Spring of 1999. Steve Busche and Deborah Merola began working at Hartwick in the Fall of 1999. In October 2002, Deborah received a Fulbright Scholar Award to lecture and conduct research at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, Nepal during the 2002-2003 academic year. Steve left Hartwick in the Spring of 2003. In the Fall of 2003, we were lucky to have Joel Morain join our staff as Technical Director. In the Fall of 2004, Dr. Rich Brown joined our staff as an Associate Theatre Professor and Ken Golden and Duncan Smith became Co-Directors of the Theatre program. Now, as Duncan plans to retire, Ken Golden is the full Director of the program. Also in the 2006-2007 academic year we welcome Johanna Campbell as a new assistant professor of theatre arts to replace Rich Brown, and we re-welcome Gary Burlew as technical director. There is a little Hartwick Theatre in everyone's heart.
The Present and Future of Hartwick Theatre
Since Ken Golden's appointment to Director, the Theatre Arts program remains as an influential aspect of the Hartwick community. In fall 2007, Marc Shaw was hired as a new assistant professor of theatre arts and took on the reigns of instructing the Theatre in England J-term course. We would also welcome Malissa Kano-White in the fall of 2008 as an assistant professor of theatre arts to replace Johanna Campbell. Gary Burlew has remained as our technical director. Over the next few years, the program has continued to grow with more students signing into the major as well as with increased involvement in theatre activities from both theatre and non-theatre students alike. Beginning in the fall of 2011 and in collaboration with the Foreman Institute for the Creative and Performing Arts, we have welcomed touring performances by the American Shakespeare Center. Their productions have drawn in large audiences enjoyed by the Hartwick and local communities. In the fall of 2013, we brought in Kathryn Townsend (Kathryn Smith as of fall 2014) as our new adjunct instructor of dance. She will be taking on a portion of the duties that Janet Bresse once held as she plans to retire after working at Hartwick for almost 50 years. As of the 2014-2015 academic year, the Theatre Arts program has been flourishing. Malissa Kano-White and Marc Shaw have both been given the status of associate professors of theatre arts. Ken Golden is now planning to retire, but working closely with Malissa so that she will be ready to take the helm of Director of Theatre Arts come the end of the 2015-2016 academic year. The stage continues to expand for Hartwick Theatre.