According to hamonlibraryblog.org, “The Southern Methodist University Arden Club was the student dramatic group on campus from 1916 to 1969”. SMU Arden Club began performing annual Commencement Shakespeare plays shortly after the completion of the Dallas Hall. These performances were typically performed on the steps, and in front of Dallas Hall on the lawn. These annual performances turned into year-round plays, not only plays written by Shakespeare, but other famous play writers such as Oscar Wilde and Arthur Goodrich.
The first photograph shown is from “The Winter’s Tale”, performed by the SMU Arden Club on June 13, 1921. This picture depicts Katherine Elizabeth Hart starring as Hermione, Queen to Leontes. In Act I she appears in the opening scenes when Polixenes, King of Bohemia comes to visit Leontes, King of Sicily. During this time, Hermione (Katherine) is asked to join the entreaty and Polixenes is persuaded to stay rather than going home. Later in Act II, Hermione is accused of infidelity and is ordered off to prison. In the photograph, Katherine Elizabeth Hart is shown distraught talking to a young girl. I believe this is soon after she finds out she will be exiled.
During this time, tickets could be bought at only one place, surprisingly not on campus. Tickets were being sold at Nelson’s Pharmacy on Main Street for one dollar a piece. This is equivalent to twelve dollars in today’s currency.
The next play represented in the photographs is “The Tempest” originally written by William Shakespeare. This was performed by the Arden Club on June 8, 1924. These photos also show the actors performing the play in and around the steps of Dallas Hall.
The photos show both Prospero and Caliban. Prospero is a magician who lives on a desert island where he has been cast away. At first, Caliban takes Prospero as a prisoner and teaches him new languages and the lay of the land. In the end, Caliban’s main goal is to slay Prospero and become a master of the island. In the scene shown below, Prospero and Caliban are fighting. Caliban says to Prospero,
“Thou most lying slave,
Whom stripes may move, not kindness! I have used thee,
Filth as thou art, with human care, and lodged thee
In my own cell, til thou didst seek to violate
The honour of my child”.
The scene involves Prospero pointing his sword at Caliban, threatening to slay him. In the photo next to this one, Prospero is hiding from the wrath of Caliban.
One notable thing about this play is how long it is. This play is 5 acts. When the play was performed by the Arden Club , the program specifically states that there is “No intermission between acts”. This means that the actors had to perform for 5 acts straight without a break, as well as the viewers.
The play involved multiple powerful players that contributed to its success. The crew included a Director of Music, a Pianist, two soloists, a duet, and an electrician. Since the play was performed one hundred percent outside, this required each of these people to set up and work outside.
The Arden Club of Southern Methodist University lasted for a long fifty three years. The Department of Music at SMU was founded with only six faculty members at fifty students in 1915. The following year, the department was upgraded to the entire school of music. Originally, the school only offered courses toward the Bachelor of Music degree.
The Arden Club allowed students experience in theater. As the music program at the school grew, the school added new courses, offering degrees in Applied Music and Music Education. Finally, in 1964, SMU reorganized the School of Music and then added courses in theater in art. This led to the renaming of the school to the School of the Arts. Due to the large contribution by Algur H. Meadows, the school was named Meadows School of the Arts. Meadows now features over 200 performances between August and May each year. Its faculty includes accomplished performers, authors, and journalists. Southern Methodist University is now known as one of the most respected art schools.