History of The FAMU Essential Theatre

The theatre discipline has a long and distinguished history at Florida A&M University.  

As early as 1913, a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was produced on campus.  Productions continued through the interest of several organized dramatic groups that later merged to form the Little Theatre Guild.  For many years this group provided the campus a source of entertainment as well as served as an outlet for creative expression for students and faculty.

The structure of a theatre program, as we know it today, began to take root in 1937 when Professor Charles Winter Wood joined the FAMU faculty as the designated Teacher of Dramatic Arts.  Professor Wood, a consummate and accomplished professional actor, motivated an intense interest in dramatic activities and theatre flourished under his leadership.  Following in Wood’s footsteps, James D. Brown conducted the dramatic activities until Dr. S. Randolph Edmonds was hired to head the newly formed Department of Speech and Drama in 1947.

A pioneer in educational theatre, Dr. Edmonds successfully developed a program which announced the first B.S. degree in Speech and Drama at FAMU.  His experience, training and talent guided the program to national and international prominence. Added to the dramatic activities of the campus, Professor Irene C. Edmonds established the FAMU Creative Children’s Theatre in 1948, which lasted through 1960.

In 1969, Dr. Ronald O. Davis assumed the position of director of theatre production.  Under Dr. Davis’ leadership, and that of his successor, Dr. Valencia E. Matthews, the Essential Theatre structure has evolved into an all-encompassing theatre operation at FAMU.  The program, under the auspices of the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities, offers two degree options: the B.A. and the B.S.