Coleman A. Jennings as a director
In his tenure at UT Austin, Coleman A. Jennings directed over 20 productions of plays for young audiences. Many of these were premiers of new work.
As any theatre director in an academic setting an tell you, there is a fine line between directing the play and producing the play. Dr. Jennings usually was doing both.
One great example is the production and tour of YANKEE DOODLE by Aurand Harris. This musical review was directed and produced by Dr. Jennings as part of the nation's Bi-Centenial celebration. With a special grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts and with additional fundraising, Dr. Jennings not only created a powerful piece of theatre for young audiences that covered the history of the nation but found a way to tour the production throughout the state. This gave his students not only an amazing experience on stage, but the practical, professional experience of touring. The project stretched over a six month period of time and brought the history of the United States to life on stage for hundreds of thousands of elementary school children.
The list of cast, crew, and cities toured as well as some press clippings are shown in the gallery here as well as the poster for the production.
As this project develops, you will find here interviews with cast members and those involved in YANKEE DOODLE. The collection at the Briscoe holds many pieces of correspondence, photos, newsclippings, and other details about how this tour was organized and is a rich resource for research about the potential power of the academic Director/Producer who is determined to serve as many young audience members as possible who is willing to think far outside the academic box.
In addition, in the same year, Coleman A. Jennings produced ANDROCLES AND THE LION. This script became so popular that for some time it was the most produced play for children in America. It is another fine example of Dr. Jennings' powerful collaboration with playwright Aurand Harris.
“Through my years in this profession, I have learned that even more satisfying than creating the stories myself, is teaching others to do it.”
Coleman A. Jennings