Tuesday, October 29, 2013

High on a Stage: The College of Saint Teresa Drama Department

The first in a series of articles about Bellairs performing with the College of Saint Teresa Drama Department.

John Bellairs began teaching at the College of Saint Teresa in Winona, Minnesota, in September 1963 and by October he was already familiar with the college's drama department.  Its department was quite popular and respected, having staged the first college production in the country of "My Fair Lady" in March 1964 [1].

Norbert Geier, professor emeritus of English and colleague of Bellairs, said the college had a strong speech and drama department, producing theatrical performances ranging from Greek classics to contemporary musicals.  As the college was women-only, productions enlisted men from outside the student body for male roles.  When it wasn't possible to find participants from the nearby Saint Mary's or Winona State College, male faculty members - such as Bellairs - were recruited or volunteered [2]. 

In October, Bellairs attended an on-campus lecture by Robert Cahlman, from the American National Theater and Academy, on the history of great costumes in the theater.  Students and staff modeled various ensembles, with Bellairs wearing Rex Harrison's outfit from "Henry VIII" (Bellairs pictured above, Harrison below), "Shadow", and Jackie Gleason in his famous mountain climbing suit. Geier wore costumes representing Prospero, Cyrano, and the Music Man [3].  Oh, what would we fans have done had Bellairs (and not Geier) been dressed as Prospero (and not the one you're not thinking of)?

Geier said Bellairs performed in five plays [1] where he enjoyed the chance to act and ham it up on stage [4].  However, we've only verified four plays:

  • "Ring Round the Moon" (Fall 1963)
  • "Twelfth Night" (Spring 1964)
  • "Electra" (Fall 1964)
  • "Heartbreak House" (Spring 1965)

While Geier says Bellairs had a role in Jean Giraudoux's "The Madwoman of Chaillot" [2],  nothing is known of this production during Bellairs's time on campus.


[1] "The College of Saint Teresa Celebrating 100 Years".  Frances Muraine Bowler Edstrom, Winona Post (Jul. 4, 2007).
[2] Correspondence with Norbert Geier (2001).
[3] "Saint Teresa Students Witness Cavalcade of Theater History'.  Winona Daily News (Oct. 30, 1963).
[4] Correspondence with John Murphy (2003).

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