DramaTech Theatre is the longest standing theatre in the southeast and only student run theatre on Georgia Tech’s campus. While Georgia Tech had a few attempts at starting a theatre in its earlier days, it wasn’t until after World War II that DramaTech was officially founded. The first show, a set of three one acts, was performed in 1947 and from that, DramaTech was born.
In the beginning, DramaTech struggled to find space for its club meetings, rehearsals, and performances, entering a period of time called the “nomadic years”. The group traveled to locations such as the Crenshaw Field House, the YMCA, and the Fowler Street School auditorium, and used various eye-catching and entertaining marketing techniques to draw an audience in for their shows.
It wasn’t until 1968 when the theatre group finally settled down in its first permanent space, the Hemphill Church of God, affectionately called the Old Church. They practiced and performed there until 1992 when the Center for the Arts was completed on Georgia Tech’s campus. At that time, DramaTech moved into the Black Box theatre located in the back of the Ferst Center for the Arts. Dean of Students, James E Dull (1964 – 1991) was very influential in DramaTech securing this space, and DramaTech elected to name the theatre after him in his honor. The Black Box continues to be a home to DramaTech members and they look forward to many more years there.
Let’s Try This:
DramaTech’s improv troupe, Let’s Try This!, began in 1989 when a group of DramaTech members saw a local improv show and decided to try out some improv at Georgia Tech. They asked local improv legend Robert Lowe to lead a set of workshops and the troupe Let’s Try This Players was born. In 1993, the name of the troupe was changed to Let’s Try This!. At this time, the troupe also became an official long standing troupe of DramaTech Theatre.
Since its establishment, Let’s Try This! has been student run with each generation of players teaching the following generation. With a focus on education and experimentation, the troupe promotes the idea of playing and continuing to learn for years to come.
DramaTech has been impacted by everyone who has stepped into its halls, however, there have been a few people who left a large impact on our theatre.
Mary Nell Santacroce was to Atlanta what Helen Hayes was to New York: the “First Lady” of theatre. Primarily a speech and drama teacher at Georgia Tech and Georgia State until 1972, Santacroce emerged as an award-winning actress at the Alliance Theatre. Mary Nell was DramaTech’s first long-lasting artistic director (1949-1966), and she helped establish DramaTech Theatre’s place in the Atlanta theatre community. From the first play she directed at DramaTech to her last, she was always called “coach” by the cast. The Mary Nell Santacroce Meritorious Service Award was named in her honor for her extended commitment to the theatre.
Greg Abbott was named Artistic Director of DramaTech in 1984 and taught theatre courses in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture. He continued as a strong and guiding presence in his role as AD for 22 years. On December 1, 2006, Greg passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack. He was a father figure to many, and loved by all. He is memorialized in the theatre by a handprint outside the stage door and a plaque in the lobby. A Greg Abbott scholarship was also created in his honor.
Dean James E. Dull was the Dean of Students at Georgia Tech for almost three decades. During that time, he influenced the community in a number of ways from playing a part in GT’s racial integration to solidifying the Ramblin’ Wreck as one of Tech’s official mascots and designing the costume and personality of Buzz. Dean Dull helped DramaTech find its current home in the Blackbox in 1992, and he and his wife, Gay Dull, established a scholarship awarded to one DramaTech member each year. The James E. Dull Service Award was named in his honor for all he did for DramaTech without being an official member of the organization.
Robert Lowe, lovingly termed “the Godfather of Improv”, brought improv to Atlanta in the 1980s. He helped form a few improv troupes and after a handful of DramaTech members saw one of their performances, they decided to create their own improv troupe. They requested Robert Lowe’s help, and from that, Let’s Try This! was born. To this day, he still comes to see shows and do workshops. He can be seen all over the Atlanta Improv community, supporting all of the troupes growth and with his continued support, Atlanta had flourished with better improvisers.
Along with a vast history, DramaTech has a few traditions it continues to promote.
Have you ever seen a DramaTech production and thought to yourself, “who accidentally left a toaster on the set,” or “why has Alexander Hamilton’s face been replaced with the image of a toaster on that ten dollar bill?” If not, look harder. Since “Toaster Dreams” by Eddie Maise, an art piece featuring several pieces of furniture suspended from the grid including a toaster spotlit in the center, it has become a DramaTech tradition to somehow incorporate a toaster into all DramaTech productions–no exceptions. Over the years, DramaTech members had a lot of fun figuring out how to creatively keep this tradition alive.
When walking through DramaTech, it is apparent that DramaTech members really like to leave behind memories. One of the best ways this is showcased is the stairwell. For every mainstage show and LTT! performed during a season in the Dean James E. Dull Theatre, a brick painted to showcase what the show or season was about. After the painting is done, the brick is signed by the members of DramaTech involved with the production. While the walls fill up fast, the memories last a lifetime.
Every show has its funny moments, every improvathon has its insanity, and every DramaTech member loves a memento of it. That memento is the paper plate. Paper plates are callbacks to things that happened during the run of a show or LTT!’s Improvathons. There are some traditional plates, such as the Improvathon Identity plate, received for completing all 26 hours of continuous improv workshops, and the Purple Heart, for an actor/actress who hurts themselves onstage and carries on despite the pain. There are also some very non-traditional show specific plates. No matter the plate, each DramaTech member has a special place in their heart for every plate they receive.