Formerly known as the Speech-Drama building, the two-story red glazed-brick building occupies the university’s former federal fish hatchery property. The Theatre Center stands in the middle of a pool measuring four hundred feet in diameter. The concentric circle structure is accessible by four bridges, all of which lead to an arcade that completely surrounds the building.
Prior to the construction of the Speech-Drama building, the Speech and Drama Department had occupied the second floor of Old Main, sharing space with other departments and thus often restricted in their production capabilities. Dr. Elton Abernathy (department chairman) and Mr. James G. Barton (director of theater) led a decades-long campaign for the construction of a new building to better fulfill the department’s needs. Because of their inexhaustible efforts, the Speech-Drama building became a reality and opened in 1971.
The new center marked a huge improvement for the Speech and Drama Department, significantly expanding its usable space and providing much-needed resources. The building’s dedication ceremony on October 30, 1971 unveiled a five-hundred seat theater and a studio theater, as well as numerous classrooms, offices, lecture halls, a voice and diction laboratory, various shops and workspaces, a television studio, and other professional-grade teaching and performing assets. The celebration of the multimillion-dollar center also included a premiere of “The Governors,” a play written by SWTSU’s playwright-in-residence Ramsey Yelvington.
The Theatre Center continues to serve the Department of Theatre and Dance, hosting a number of productions every year.