Margaret Wilkerson Heads The New Theater Arts Center

by Fernando Quintero

The creation of the Center For Theater Arts, a transformation of the Dramatic Arts Department that will expand the university's instructional program in theater and dance by becoming a more active intersection for a wide variety of disciplines, was announced by Chancellor Tien on Feb. 15.

Margaret Wilkerson, professor and former chair of African American Studies, has been appointed director of the center.

Wilkerson, an alumna who received her PhD in dramatic art in '72 and who has taught at Berkeley for nearly 30 years, has devoted much of her career to unlocking the magic of her greatest passion: live theater and dance.

"I've taken a lot of students to their first live productions," she said.

"I've witnessed their wonder and excitement."

Wilkerson describes the precedent-setting conversion as "an effort to revitalize the theatrical arts on campus and develop a structure that supports the interdisciplinary, civic and multicultural role of contemporary theater."

In October, The Vice Chancellor and Provost Carol Christ approved the Academic Planning Board's recommendation that the Dramatic Art Department be transformed into a new center.

The center will be "one in which its mission is reconceived in broader, more inclusive terms; one that reaches out to incorporate the many faculty in other departments with serious interests in theater and dance and embraces the larger arts community surrounding the campus; and one in which the students needs are better met," said Christ.

Proposed features of the center include:

o A faculty core, with affiliated faculty from literature and other departments with interests in theater and dance; lecturers and part-time faculty from professional and theater and dance; and skilled theater practitioners on the center's staff.

o An interdisciplinary undergraduate major that educates students in theater as a liberal art in the broader context of literature, performance history, and culture and trains students in the fundamentals of acting and the theater design crafts. The curriculum would be broadened to include training in a wider range of dance forms and instruction.

o In consultation with Cal Performances, relationships that will enhance instruction with professional theater and dance companies would be cultivated to bring performances and artists to the center.

Christ said Wilkerson was chosen to lead the new center because of her impressive background and skills as well as her long-standing ties to the university.

Wilkerson's many credits include the Award for Academic Leadership, Council of Independent Colleges Deans Institute; American College Theatre Fellow; Profile of Excellence Award, KGO-TV; and Ford and Rockefeller fellowships.


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