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University of Texas Drama Department: Sights and Scenes of Campus and Pre-Production of Hamlet

Gordon Wilkison

Silent | 1954 | 1955 | 1960

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  •  The scenes from this video take place in 1954, 1955, and 1960 respectively. In 1959, The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Theatre and Dance experienced a fire that forced the school to move locations. Throughout the video, we get glimpses of pre- and post-fire life within the school. 
  •  This production of Hamlet marked the drama department's 250th rendition. 
  •  Out and about on campus 
  •  The Mary E. Gearing Hall building, seen here, is still in use at the University for various classes—but not much dunking.  
  •  Professor B. Iden Payne taught at The University of Texas at Austin from 1946 to 1973. Before coming to Texas, Payne was a well-known director of plays in England and Ireland, where he directed hundreds of productions. During his time at UT, Payne directed 30 plays, 24 of which were Shakespearean productions. He retired as a Professor Emeritus in Drama at the age of 91. Three years after his death in 1976, UT dedicated a theater in his name that still stands today. 
  •  This production of Mother Courage was performed in 1960. Present in this production’s crew was Sandra "Scottie" Wilkison, a local Austin actress. Wilkison was a prominent member of Austin’s theater scene since her graduation in 1957. She, along with her husband Gordon, was often recognized for her work in community theater throughout her career. 
  •  In the classroom 
  •  Bunny ears 
  •  Students cross Guadalupe St. on their way to the Texas Union 
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Composed of footage shot in 1954, 1955, and 1960, this film captures members of the University of Texas at Austin Drama Department (now known as the Theatre and Dance Department) preparing for a production of Hamlet. Featured players gather outside a tent to rehearse lines and get into costume. The footage also shows students out and about on campus, showcasing student life and 1950s fashion trends. Later, the film captures preparations for a 1960 production of Mother Courage. Scottie Wilkison, a local actress and wife to donor Gordon Wilkison, served as one of the crew. Special thanks to Alex Aguilar and Alejandra Martinez for their help cataloging this film.
Gordon Wilkison began work as a cameraman at the local Austin television station KTBC (now FOX 7) during 1952, its first year of operation.  At the time the station was owned by the Texas Broadcasting Company, which was owned by Senator Lyndon B. and Lady Bird Johnson. This relationship would continue to shape Wilkison's career well into the next decades - during the Johnson administration, Wilkison covered the president's visits to Texas, preparing material for national and international news correspondents. 
A particularly notable moment in his career occurred on August 1, 1966, when Wilkison and KTBC reporter Neal Spelce risked their lives to capture footage of the Tower shooting at the University of Texas. 
Wilkison was also the General Manager of Photo Processors at the LBJ Broadcasting Corporation, which he later took over and renamed Cenetex Film Labs. In addition to his camera work and film processing, his work at the station also included direction of a number of television film productions.
Outside of KTBC, Wilkison shot, edited, and processed Longhorn football game footage for the University of Texas, a partnership that lasted nearly 30 years.    
Recognizing the historical value of film and news footage, Wilkison kept the material, later contributing hundreds of reels to the Texas Archive of the Moving Image's collection.