Director Paul Baker To Return To Campus For Theater's 100th Anniversary Celebration

June 5, 2001

One of the best-known directors in Baylor Theatre history will return to campus June 15-17 to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the university's theater program. Paul Baker, who served as chairman of the Baylor University theater department from 1934-1963, will participate in "The Genesis of the Creative Spirit," a festival that will examine the theater program from 1901-1963. A second conference that looks at Baylor Theatre from 1964 to the present will be held in October.

"People from around the world would come to work with Baker," said Deborah Mogford, senior lecturer in theater arts who studied under Baker at Trinity University. "It was not uncommon for a student to walk into the theater and find people like Frank Lloyd Wright, Charlton Heston, Eli Wallach and Henry Haws waiting to teach classes or perform in a play."

During Baker's tenure, the theater department at Baylor was elevated to international prominence. It was during this period that the university built its first theater building, established the Dallas Theater Center and gained national acclaim for experimental productions, including revolutionary stagings of "Hamlet" and "Othello," which featured performances by Charles Laughton and Burgess Meredith and were reviewed by the "New York Times" and Paris newspapers. Baker resigned from Baylor in 1963 after a well-publicized clash with the university over a production of Eugene O'Neill's "Long Days Journey Into Night."

The festival will open with an informal reception and reunion at 6:30 p.m. June 15 in the Barfield Drawing Room. A discussion on "Ideas into Form: The Philosophy and How It All Began and How It Continues Today" will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday in the Mabee Theater.

Breakout sessions on a variety of topics, such as religion and the theater, reading and arts in education, theater performance, design/technical aspects, writing for the theater and business, will begin at 2 p.m. and run to 5 p.m in various rooms in the Hooper-Shaefer Fine Arts Center. Speakers include John Paul Bastiste, director of the Texas Commission on the Arts, and Robyn Flatt, artistic and managing director of the Dallas Children's Theatre and Baker's daughter, among others.

At 5:30 p.m. the nationally recognized Yoh Speakchorus of Vermont as well as theater alumni and current students will perform in the Jones Theater at Hooper-Schaefer. Video greetings from theater alumni including internationally renowned designer Robert Wilson and actress Carole Cook also will be shown.

The conference will culminate with a dinner at 8 p.m. in the Galloway Suite at Floyd Casey Stadium. The keynote speaker will be Robert Johnson of the Johnson Group, a creative media production company in Virginia.

Johnson, who studied under Baker, has been associate producer for three Republican National Conventions and for 14 seasons has produced and staged the opening ceremonies and entertainment for the annual "Christmas Pageant of Peace," the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. He also produced the "Great American Family Awards," hosted by Nancy Reagan, and his "Proudly They Came" was selected as a Fourth of July special by both ABC and NBC networks.

Additionally at the banquet, Baker will receive recognition for his years of teaching and theater innovation from the Texas State Senate.

The conference will conclude Sunday, June 17, with a special worship service at Seventh and James Baptist Church.

Registration to attend all conference events is $125. For more information, call the Baylor theater department at (254) 710-1861.

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