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When Professor George Pierce Baker left Harvard in 1925, taking with him to Yale the famous English 47, a course in playwriting, and his "47 Workshop," which produced many of the plays written in the course, Harvard reaffirmed its policy of only theoretical training for undergraduates. The loss of one of the greatest teachers of the drama was a high price to pay that the policy might be upheld, yet it was paid because Professor Baker's too-practical methods of training did not jibe with the theoretical approach of the University.
At Professor Baker's departure, the Harvard Dramatic Club, which had run concurrently with the "Workshop" from its inception in 1908, took up the practical aspect of Harvard's theatrical burden. Because the practical dramatic training it offers is extra-curricular in nature, the Club has met with little of the hostility accorded by University Hall to the "Workshop." It has produced consistently creditable plays despite many great obstacles, and if its present rate of growth continues, the Club bids fair to revive Harvard's great dramatic tradition, and to restore the University to its former position as the foremost theatrical college in the country.
There is, nevertheless, a widespread feeling that the University itself is neglecting those of its students who are genuinely interested in the drama. Although there are several excellent Comparative Literature courses dealing with the drama, such as Comparative Literature 4, which treats of Ibsen and the Modern Drama, and English 53, the English Drama from 1780-1890, it must be admitted that courses in Franch and American drama are at a premium. Nor is there, in the Department of Fine Arts, any instruction for those who may care to study the theory of stage design and lighting effects.
But most serious of all, is the fact that there is not a single course in playwriting in the entire English Department. To be sure, English A-4 provides "instruction in playwriting for those who desire it," yet such instruction is of an incidental nature, and the main emphasis of the course is not upon the technique of the drama. Furthermore, the enrollment of the course is strictly limited. In all other English composition courses, special emphasis is placed upon the short story or other literary forms, and instruction in playwriting, if given at all, plays an unimportant part.
The problem, then, centers about the fact that there is a shortage of literary courses dealing with the drama, that there are no courses in the Art Department dealing exclusively with stage design, and that there are no courses in the English Department which give exclusive instruction in playwriting. What may be done to effect a reconciliation of the University's policy of not providing manual instruction in undergraduate courses, and the growing demand for a broadening of scope in the study of the drama, will be discussed in the second of these editorials.
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