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Brief Biographical / Historical Sketch

History

The Pitt Players was a student theatre organization at the University of Pittsburgh. They evolved from the Thespian Society, which was the former theatre group before the University moved the campus to Oakland. The founder of the Pitt Players was faculty member George M .P. Baird. He financed, directed, and wrote several of the early plays. Deirdre, by William Butler Yeats, was their first production in 1914; it was performed in Trees gymnasium. The student members of the Players made their own costumes, built their own minimalist sets, and also helped to finance their shows. Their early performances were credited in the newspapers as some of the first experimental theatre productions in the city.

Each season, beginning in the fall, consisted of three or four plays. Each play would be performed between three to six times. Some performances were reserved for University of Pittsburgh students and faculty only. Occasionally, they would perform matinees for area high school students. Productions were halted during World War I, in part due to Baird's enlistment in the service. Pitt Players resumed in 1919 under the direction of Reginald Johnson. Starting in the 1930s, one or two additional productions were offered during the summer. Harvey J. Pope became the director of both the Cap and Gown Club and the Pitt Players in 1947. Before the construction of the Stephen Foster Memorial building, the Pitt Players performed at several locations and venues in Pittsburgh including the Irene Kaufmann Settlement, Heinz House, the Young Men's Hebrew Association, Falk School, Frick Training School, the Schenley Hotel's theater, and the Pittsburgh Playhouse. After 1937, nearly every performance was offered in the Stephen Foster Memorial building. When the Cap and Gown Club was disbanded in 1948, the Pitt Players began to incorporate the musical comedies that made the Cap and Gown Club so popular. The Department of Speech began offering theatre classes as part of their curriculum in 1960. As a result, the Pitt Players dissolved as an extracurricular student group and melded into the University's official theatre troupe. The student actors and actresses were still occasionally referred to as the Pitt Players, but soon even the name faded. In 1982 the Department of Theatre Arts was created and in 1999 the theatre company was named the University of Pittsburgh Repertory Theatre or Pitt Rep.