Browning Theatre at Webster University | Webster University

Browning Theatre at Webster University

The Browning Theatre is located in the Loretto-Hilton Center which opened in 1966. The main stage was named the Virginia Jackson Browning Theatre in 2002 in recognition of the contributions of Virginia and Laurence Browning.1


Original plans for the new theatre called for four movable walls that could be used to create smaller spaces for various functions. As then Vice-President Sr. Jacqueline Grennan explained, "One problem facing any university or college planning to expend large sums of money for a theater is the fact that the theater is used for dramatic performances, at most, fifty times a year. The way our theater is planned will eliminate this problem. The theater can also be used for choral practices, drama rehearsals and classes simultaneously."2


Perhaps the most notable feature of the venue is the thrust stage, which allows actors to enter and exit from the front of the stage.3 In 2004, Marita Woodruff recounted the influence that noted director Tyrone Guthrie had on the use of the thrust stage in the United States, and on the moment when she had to tell the Loretto-Hilton architects to include one in the new building: "We had meetings constantly with the architects and there came that moment when the architect, now before we go any further we have to know, do you really want this to be a thrust stage? Because it was not anywhere else anywhere. And I sat there for a minute and thought, God, I don’t know, I’m not sure this going to survive, whether it will be a popular way to stage a play. I loved it because of the intimacy between the actor and...but I remember sitting there for quite a while and finally saying yes, we’ll make it thrust. "4


Today the Browning Theatre is shared by the Conservatory and the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.


Theatre specifications (Conservatory website)

Browning Theatre seating chart (Repertory Theatre of St. Louis)



1Tully, Jeryldine. (2002, Spring). Brownings' support takes Webster to new level. Webster World, vol. 7, no. 4, 18-19.

2Blueprints for theatre materialize in '63. (1962, November 9). The Web, vol. 39, no. 6, p. 1.

3The many faces of the Loretto-Hilton. (1966, May 6). The Web, vol. 43, no. 12, pp. 4-5.

4Woodruff, M. (2004, March 8). Interview by K.M. Gaynor [Transcript]. Webster University Archives, St. Louis, MO. (Read the interview)


Additional References

Banks, Rebecca. (2001, December 6-January 16, 2002). Construction continues over break. The Journal, vol. 50, no. 14, p. 1.

Dedication service May 8 for Loretto-Hilton Center. (1966, March 4). The Web, vol. 43, no. 9, p. 1.

Loretto-Hilton Center expansion. (1999, Spring). Webster World, vol. 4, no. 5, p. 40-41.

Loretto-Hilton Center gets facelift. (2000, Fall). Webster World, vol. 6, no. 2, p. 27.

May, Dave. (1999, November 4). Webster to open hostel in Loretto-Hilton. The Journal, vol. 46, no. 10, p. 13.

Opening of Loretto-Hilton Center marks Webster's further motion. (1966, May 6). The Web, vol. 43, no. 12, p. 1.

Wallus, Sarah. (2000, April 6). Conservatory, Rep get comfort with expansion The Journal, vol. 47, no. 10, p. 13.