Conservatory curriculum 1967 | Webster University

Conservatory curriculum 1967

While theatre has been part of campus life since the very early years of Webster, the Conservatory of Theatre Arts is considered to date from the 1967-1968 academic year. At that time, Webster's approach to theatre education changed drastically, enabled by the opening of the Loretto-Hilton Center, the establishment of the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and the availability of a permanent company of professional actors on campus.


Peter Sargent, a faculty member and later Dean of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts, described the new approach this way: "Our main a laboratory course called Conservatory. It's a different approach, I think a better approach to training students. They work every afternoon just as chemistry or science students would work in a laboratory, only this is a theater laboratory involved with theatrical skills." (Start, 1970)


Michael Flanagan, then artistic director of the Rep and chair of the Theatre Arts Department, distributed a memo and letter outlining the curriculum which was implemented in Fall 1967. A local newspaper article further described the conservatory approach: "Under this system there are competitive auditions for admission to the department, flexible course systems geared to each individual student, and a master-apprentice relationship between teacher and student at all levels of work. Students appear in workshop productions, departmental productions, and in Repertory Theater productions." In the same article, Flanagan states: "We are striving to give freedom to the professional outside the commercial theater as the first step toward total integration of professional and educational theater. We must breathe some realism into drama teaching, we can't cling to the ivy and let Webster College remain just a finishing school." (Nazzaro, 1967).


The collaboration between the Rep and the Conservatory continues to this day. According to Sargent, "...because the Repertory sets such a high standard, he sees the students in the Conservatory working to meet that standard." (Loellke, 2016).



Clancy, Sam. (2014, April 29). Repertory Theatre acts as learning platform for Conservatory. The Journal. (read the article)


Loellke, Bill. (2016, September 20). The Repertory celebrates 50 years. The Journal. (read the article)


McCaslin, Greg. (1969, March 28). Sargent affirms commitment. The Web, vol. 46, no. 22, p. 7.


Nazzaro, William J. (1967, November 12). Theater in residence. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, pp. 19, 22-23.


Start, Clarissa. (1970, March 20). Honing talent in theater arts. St. Louis Post-Dispatch, pp. 1-2.