Brian Wallheimer | December 21, 2016
Two faculty members and former chairs who were instrumental in the development of the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre are taking their final bows.
Fellow of the Medieval Institute, Mark Pilkinton, who expanded the department in the 1980s and pushed for the building of the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, retired this summer. Donald Crafton unified the department during his tenure as chair and expanded it to include film and television studies. He will retire after the fall semester.
“Mark was really the founding father of the department. We wouldn’t be here today without his steadfast efforts,” said James Collins, professor and chair of the department. “Don came in later and said, ‘If we’re going to pursue excellence, this is how we’re going to do it.’ He set the bar higher for all of us.”
When Pilkinton came to Notre Dame as department chair in 1984, there was no theatre being performed on campus. Shows had been moved to the St. Mary’s College campus some time before.
His charge was to bring the program back to Washington Hall, the historic building that had housed theatre at Notre Dame since 1882. And he did that, while also setting a new direction for how students function within the program—a hallmark of Notre Dame’s theatre productions ever since.
Kevin Dreyer, associate professor and director of theatre, said the program had been caught up in “theatre of human sacrifice.” Students worked into the wee hours of the morning—allowing classes, their sleep and other activities to become secondary and, in some cases, to suffer.
“Mark came in with the attitude that these are students first and actors second,” Dreyer said. “If we do not stop our rehearsals at a reasonable hour, when are they supposed to do their studies, to be the students they came in here to be? That right there shaped a great deal of the nature of the department.”