Theatre, Dance & Film
In Fall 2004, Providence College dedicated the Smith Center for the Arts -- a single, integrated facility that houses the Department of Music and the Department of Theatre, Dance, and Film. The arts center provides a full range of quality teaching, rehearsal, production, and performance spaces to enhance the academic pursuit and extracurricular enjoyment of the performing arts. It includes the Angell Blackfriars Theatre -- a 283-seat a dynamic performance space that is a gift of the Angell Foundation in memory of David Angell, a member of the Providence College class of 1969 and Lynn Angell.
The History of Blackfriars
The Blackfriars Theatre at Providence College was located in Harkins Hall from the mid-1980s-2004, and served as a dedicated performance space and second home to those undergraduates and faculty devoted to the art and craft of theatre.
The name "Blackfriars" has both a religious and a theatrical connotation. In the High Middle Ages it was a popular name given to the Dominican Friars who, over their white wool tunics, wore a black cloak and cowl - for traveling and for cold weather. When the Dominican preachers came to England, they built a friary (convent) near London, which was called Blackfriars.
When the Dominicans and other religious orders were suppressed at the time of the Reformation, the house called Blackfriars, with its large enclosed refectory, was used for theatrical productions. In 1608, the King's Men (Shakespeare's company) leased Blackfriars for winter productions. And so, the name survives, in history and in popular memory, with this mixed connotation.
In our own time, and in the living memory of many people on the PC campus, the name emerged again. Affixed to it was the same double connotation, at once religious and theatrical. Blackfriars was the name given to the Catholic theatrical group formed by the Dominicans in Washington, D.C. in the early 1930s. Fathers Urban Nagle and Thomas Carey, both Dominicans, started the Blackfriars Guild, a theatrical group dedicated to writing and producing plays that were both artistically appealing and spiritually challenging.
That initial experience in Washington, moreover, provided the impetus for other Blackfriars chapters in various cities: New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Providence, Pittsburgh, Louisville, Rochester, and others. Another Blackfriars venture, a summer Institute of the Dramatic Arts at Catholic University, was the seed-bed and the inspiration for the now-famous School of Speech and Drama founded at Catholic University in the late thirties, under the direction of Gilbert V. Harke, O.P.
When Fathers Nagle and Carey were transferred to New York City, they became the driving force behind the Blackfriars Theatre, one of the first Off-Broadway theatres. Operating in a small and intimate theatre on West 57th Street, the Blackfriars Guild staged its first play in 1941 and remained in continual operation until the early seventies. During this time, the Guild produced over forty original plays, availing itself of the energies and talents of hundreds of New York actors, many of whom went on to outstanding careers.
Providence College offers a dance minor, as well as dance courses that are open to all students. The Providence College Dance Company performs on campus each semester and participates in a regular dance festivals most years. The Company performs choreography by faculty, guest artists, and students, mainly in the styles of modern and jazz dance, with tap, ballet, and other influences. Auditions for the Company are held every fall and periodically in the spring. There is also a Dance Club at the College open to all students.
Visit the pages maintained by the Department of Theatre, Dance and Film.