A history of Drama at the University is told in Drama at Queen's From its Beginning to 1991, by Erdmute Waldhauer.

Courses in drama were first offered at Queen's in the early 20th century through the Department of English, though students and faculty had performed plays in independent groups since the late 19th century.

As early as the 1850s, students created a debate club to practice their argumentation, an elocution society to sharpen their tongues and a glee club for entertainment.

The completion of the Theological College building in 1879 gave Queen’s a stage in Convocation Hall, and the Glee Club gloried in its footlights. In 1899, the Queen’s Dramatic Guild was founded. Student productions of staple Shakespeare plays As You Like It, Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice soon graced Convocation Hall and were often exported uptown to the Kingston Grand Opera House. When students began writing plays, faculty took notice.

Not be outdone, Queen’s professors formed the Faculty Players in 1921. In the tradition of English local theatricals, they presented Oscar Wilde, John Masefield, and even Mozart.

[drama at Queen's]
Photo from Queen's Archives

The arrival of Americans William and Margaret Angus in 1937 gave Queen’s verve in theatrical direction and costuming.

The Campus Frolic became an annual fixture in which budding actors such as Lorne Greene (Arts ’37), who later starred in the popular 1960s TV show Bonanza, honed their stage skills.

A summer school in acting and stage drama was initiated, drawing on the expertise of renowned playwright and Queen’s graduate Herman Voaden.

In 1947, Drama separated from the English department and became a distinct department under the directorship of William Angus, whose wife, Margaret Angus, was the second member of the teaching staff.

In the 1960s, J.A. Fred Euringer arrived at Queen’s with playwriting and directing experience gained at the Stratford Festival. Euringer moved Queen’s drama beyond its traditional diet into more modern offerings – Albee, Pinter and Sartre. Euringer took over the department upon Dr. Angus's retirement in 1963 and ushered in a new era marked by the conversion of Convocation Hall into a 260-seat theatre and the establishment of offices, workshops, and dressing rooms in the basement of Theological Hall.

Drama at Queen’s thrived; students flocked to campus productions and the drama department introduced Drama 410 – a course dedicated to the class production of a play.

[photo of students performing "Okey Doke" from "All's Well" in 1977]
Students performing "Okey Doke" from "All's Well," 1977

In the late 20th century, the program incubated many professional actors – Carolyn Hetherington, Mo Bock, Wendy Crewson, and Greg Wanless, to name but a few. Musical theatre and student opera groups emerged.

In 2015, Queen’s intensified its artistic commitment by combining its drama and music studies, and in 2016, the Dan School of Drama and Music was named after a transformative $5 million gift from Queen's parents, Aubrey and Marla Dan. The majority of the donation was permanently endowed to enable ongoing investments in visiting professional instructors, scholarships and research, and to support the School's vision to be the pre-eminent centre for the study of music theatre in Canada.