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Winter 2005 • Volume 11, Issue 1

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In addition to supervising the physical changes, Ludwig and Weinberg were faced with the task of building the newly-formed Theatre Department. The story is reminiscent of Bradley’s former School of Horology, in which founder Lydia Moss Bradley purchased the Parson‘s Horological Institute in LaPorte, Indiana, and brought the school’s students, teachers, and equipment to Peoria. In the case of the theatre department, Ludwig recalls, “We had only four theatre majors, so we had a building before we had a program. We heard about Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, which was closing its Theatre Department. We met with the faculty and the students and came back with 11 students, three faculty members, and costumes. We chose Man of La Mancha as the opening play because they had done the play down there and we had the costumes. The song Impossible Dream was personally compelling to me.”

Image from the play Into the Woods 2001Glenn Schorsch ’81 was Bradley’s only freshman theatre major when the decision was made to build the theatre department. He recalls, “During my first few months at school, the Bradley administrators decided to focus efforts on turning the vacant old gymnasium into a first-class performing arts center. Obviously, this would take millions of dollars. I remember receiving a phone call from a reporter with the Bradley Scout wanting my opinion on why such a huge financial investment could be justified. I would strongly assert that the right decision was made.”

Schorsch worked as an actor for a few years before deciding to attend law school. Now a public defender, Schorsch writes and performs in the “Legal Follies,” a yearly benefit show. He also coaches the Boylan High School mock trial program. He comments, “As a lawyer, confidence on one’s feet is a true advantage in the courtroom. The fundamental elements of stage movement and vocal projection and inflection that I learned while studying theatre at Bradley have paved the way for a successful legal career. Though there is nothing quite comparable to a performance in front of a capacity crowd, I prefer the hand-selected audience of 12 that a jury trial provides.”

Ludwig notes that Bradley theatre is one of the prime avenues for connecting the University with the larger community. “Some would put Hartmann Center in the geographic center of campus. While that occurred by happenstance, theatre is second only to athletics as the most visible, noisy, confrontational aspect of the University. It’s literally the face of the University. People come here to see the plays. Close to 300 students take theatre appreciation classes each year, at least 100 students are on stage or backstage, and we have 100 theatre majors, so hundreds of students are engaged in theatre every single year. This is a tremendously satisfying opportunity to show off our students.”

Image of a proogram from 1985He credits Dr. Jeffrey Huberman, dean of the Slane College of Communications and Fine Arts, with dubbing Bradley’s program, “the little theatre with big ideas.” Internationalization and a premier lectureship are among those big ideas. Ludwig says, “We were the first to have an international exchange. We had a Russian director, playwright, and translator come here. It was about 1991, and the playwright and director were father and son. They were here the very days of the Soviet revolution. We have the Iben Lectureship, which allows us to bring in leaders in theatre to speak to our students.”

Reflecting on the past 25 years, Ludwig concludes, “There are these brilliant, transcendental moments which are religious. Wonderful things have occurred here, and they still do.”
Looking toward the future of the theatre department, he adds, “Nothing is more exciting than opening night of a college play. There’s an energy that occurs among the actors and the audience. It’s the soul of the whole operation.”

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