In September of 1935, Sheppard Randolph Edmonds instituted the first HBCU Theatre Arts Program in the United States at Dillard University in New Orleans. The following year, he established NASDA (National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts) and directed the Dillard Players’ Guild from 1935-1944. A prolific scholar and playwright, S. Randolph Edmonds published over thirty-eight essays on theatre and wrote forty-six plays. Today, his legacy shines brightly as the “Dean of Black American Theatre”.
For the last 89 years, the Dillard Theatre Arts Program has continued to provide a comprehensive theatre curriculum, offering undergraduate degrees in both performance and technical theatre. The Theatre Arts Program captivates live audiences with a diverse repertory in which student actors are trained to move effortlessly from Classical Greek to Shakespeare, Modern Realism, and the works of important Black playwrights including, but not limited to, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, Suzan-Lori Parks, James Baldwin, and August Wilson. Additionally, Dillard has star-lighted great Black musical theatre compositions, namely: Pearlie, The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and Dream Girls.
In 2022, the Dillard Theatre Arts Program won the Best University Production Big Easy Entertainment Award for Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith. Our student performers and technicians continue the tradition of artistic excellence in all aspects of theatre production. As a result, they are often singled out by the local theatre community and many go on to professional careers.
In 2024, the Dillard Theatre Arts Program will commemorate its 90th consecutive season of theatre bringing the best in live performance to the Gentilly community and re-establishing the Dillard Players & Guild!