Theater for Children
Winifred Ward (C1905) opened the wonderful world of drama to children. She developed the fields of children’s theater and creative dramatics, allowing children to experience and appreciate the art of theater.
Children’s theater began when Ward assigned her School of Speech students to study theater for youth by performing plays for an Evanston elementary school audience.
The first production, in 1925, was Snow White. It was a hit.
For the next 25 years Ward directed the Children’s Theatre of Evanston, a collaboration between Northwestern’s School of Speech and Evanston’s elementary schools. She later founded the National Children’s Theatre Conference in 1944.
Ward also founded the field of creative dramatics, a classroom teaching method that emphasizes self-expression, training in spoken English and literature appreciation. The most distinctive characteristic of creative dramatics is its lack of scripts. Ward, a supervisor of dramatics for Evanston’s elementary school district, taught that “instead of memorizing set speeches and acting parts in the way the teacher directs, the children develop plays out of their own thoughts and imaginations and emotions.”
Born and raised in Eldora, Iowa, Ward spent many summers in Washington, D.C., where she watched theatrical performances. This early exposure to theater influenced Ward throughout her career.
Known for her vision, eloquence, and passion for children and the arts, “Ward remains a source of inspiration,” says Rives Collins, associate professor of theater and a McCormick Professor of Teaching Excellence.
“The founder of the discipline of creative drama, the author of our seminal textbooks, a visionary director of Children’s Theatre, a mentor to a generation of drama specialists and international ambassador for arts advocacy, Winifred Ward was the most significant figure our field has ever known.”