Former UT professor to be honored with development of theater history center

Sylvia Butanda

Oscar Brockett, a former UT professor, was one of the world’s leading theater historians, and his leadership will continue to be honored by the development of an academic research center in his area of expertise.

The Oscar and Lenyth Brockett Professorship in Theatre History has been established as the first endowment in support of the development of the Oscar G. Brockett Center for Theatre History and Criticism. The professorship will fund faculty and student research in theater history, allowing the plans of the center to move forward, said Brant Pope, chair of the Department of Theatre and Dance.

“With the assistance of Brockett’s daughter, Francesca Brockett, and her husband Jim Pedicano, we’ve achieved stage one of the plans to build the center,” Pope said.

Pope said the center will begin as a think tank in order to discuss how it will be structured.

“The legacy of Brockett will extend into the 21st century by being a think tank and will allow the discussion of all aspects of theater history and performance,” Pope said.

“We will be able to craft what that field of study would be in the 21st century, what kind of things we should be studying in that area, what kind of labs should we build and what the curriculum should be.”

During this stage, the center will also be able to fundraise and build toward raising enough money for an endowed chair of the Brockett Center, Pope said.

At the core of the center will be Brockett’s collection of books, papers, journals and artifacts, which will allow scholars to study and use his collection to write theater history, Pope said.

“Now that he’s gone, scholars that used to come to talk to him can now come to the center as a place of inspiration where [they] can use his collection and write and study theater history,” he said.

Douglas Dempster, dean of the College of Fine Arts, said UT has long been a top center of theater education in Texas and a center of cutting-edge theater scholarships in the country.

“Brockett, along with many other former and current faculty members, have been responsible for elevating UT’s theater history program to a top 12 ranking in the National Research Council’s evaluation of Ph.D. programs in theater,” Dempster said. “The creation of the Brockett Center and the Brockett Professorship is an expression of our and of our supporters’ institutional determination, to remain in this elite company of Ivy League and public flagship research universities.”

Heather Barfield, theater and dance graduate student and former student of Brockett, said he was a gentle professor, a thorough historian and an inquisitive thinker.

“Our opinions as students were respected and, in fact, requested in order to cultivate an appreciation for both the mysteries and grounded evidence of theater history,” Barfield said. “Having a professorship in his honor is a testament to Brockett’s profound effect upon countless students, scholars and historians, including those inside and outside theater studies.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 17, 2012 as: Brockett Center will honor former professor