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Thorneloe home to award-winning theatre - Dr. Robert Derrenbacker

This evening, Thorneloe University will rename its theatre in honour of a prominent citizen and local visual artist who has made an immense contribution to education.

This evening, Thorneloe University will rename its theatre in honour of a prominent citizen and local visual artist who has made an immense contribution to education. This event will mark a new and exciting chapter in Thorneloe’s programming in the Fine Arts.

When Thorneloe was first founded a half century ago, it was only able to offer courses in Philosophy and Religious Studies. It was not until the 1970s that Thorneloe’s programming gradually began to expand to encompass other disciplines, including Women’s Studies, Classical Studies, and of course, Theatre Arts.

The origin of Thorneloe’s theatre program dates back to the mid-1970s when discussions began. In 1977, Thorneloe drafted a proposal to expand its offerings to include a program in Theatre Arts. In 1979, after the Laurentian University humanities faculty responded favourably to the proposal, Thorneloe developed a theatre program to be launched on a trial basis.

In the meantime, the “Laurentian University Players,” an extracurricular theatre group on campus, came under the Thorneloe umbrella. They became the “Thorneloe University Players” in 1979, producing Henrik Ibsen’s “A Doll’s House” as their first play.

In 1981, 22 students were enrolled in the first class of the Theatre Arts program. It wasn’t until 1985 when Thorneloe hired its first director, Mr. Daniel Dixon.

Prior to 1998, many productions took place at Laurentian University in a portable behind Thorneloe. Despite not having its own professional theatre space, the program continued to grow. Faculty and students would regularly produce some of the finest theatre in Sudbury.

Thorneloe’s 158-seat theatre was opened to the public in 1998. Complete with professional lighting, sound and a “green room,” this space has, for the past 13 years, been home to many productions presented by the Thorneloe Theatre Arts Department.

It has also been the venue of choice for many other groups who have regularly used the space, including Le Maschere Laurenziane (Italian Studies at Laurentian), Theatre Cambrian and the Improv Games. In addition, the theatre has been the stage for co-productions with Cambrian College’s Technical Theatre Program since the mid-1990s.

Theatre presentations extend well beyond the regular academic year. Each summer, Thorneloe presents “Summer Shakespeare,” a Shakespeare comedy performed in the outdoors. This year, the ever-popular “As You Like It” will run from June 24 to 26.

We are pleased to have a strong enrolment in our Theatre Arts courses, with close to 250 students taught by Dr. Ian Maclennan and Professor Patricia Tedford, both professional actors and full-time faculty members, as well as seven part-time faculty.

Our plays have won a number of QUONTA (Quebec/Ontario Theatre Association) awards, the most recent of which was last year’s production of Dylan Thomas’ “Under Milk Wood,” directed by Jenny Hazelton, Thorneloe’s theatre technician and part-time faculty member.

Our Winter Mainstage opens tonight. Michel Tremblay’s “Les Belles Soeurs” will run from March 10-12 and 17-19. As in the past, it is a co-production with Cambrian College’s technical theatre program.

Thorneloe’s interest in the fine arts does not end with theatre. We also oversee the Bachelor of Fine Arts program (BFA) at Laurentian, a unique interdisciplinary program that provides students with the opportunity to take one major and one minor concentration from music, theatre performance, and theatre production.

In addition, we are currently developing a minor stream in motion picture arts. With northern Ontario as an important centre for television and film production, Thorneloe has been offering a number of courses in motion picture arts for the past several years. Our forthcoming BFA minor in motion picture arts will further expand our offerings in this exciting and new area of study and capitalize on Sudbury’s unique position in the growing film and television industry.

As you can see, fine arts are alive and well at Thorneloe University, and they are part of the important and vital programs in Thorneloe’s rich history. For more information about our courses, programs and 50th anniversary celebrations, please visit

Dr. Robert Derrenbacker is the president of Thorneloe University. This is the last in a series of three columns celebrating the 50th anniversary of the educational institution.