What is the CDA?

The CDA is one of the oldest state secondary school theatre organizations in the country. Established in 1936, the CDA continues to offer students and teachers a wide variety of educational theatre experiences in which to grow and learn, share and enjoy.

The CDA is you - teachers and directors, with and without formal theatre training, who want to provide the best in theatre education, and the CDA is your students - young people who are enthusiastic about the magic of theatre.

What do our students learn through the study of theatre?

The study of theatre also teaches responsibility, trust, sensitivity, tolerance, an appreciation of human diversity and an understanding of self.

A brief history

Records show that the first major education theater event in Connecticut occurred in 1936, that being a spring drama festival, an annual activity that has continued through the years until today. From 1936 until 1960 the drama festival, as well as other state-wide educational theater-related activities, were sponsored by a combined drama and speech association, and this association was, in turn, a component of the Connecticut Association of Secondary Schools' Non-Athletic Board of Control.

In 1960, a group of individuals on the Non-Athletic Board felt it was important to separate drama and speech into two distinct organizations in order to more fully realize the goals of each. To that end, on November 22, 1960, a state-wide meeting of drama directors/sponsors was called at Bulkley High School in Hartford in an attempt to organize theater-related educational activities under the guise of a formal organization called "The Connecticut Drama Association."

On October 27, 1961, the CDA held its first annual donvention. It was held at Plainville High School with Marjorie Mueller Freer in charge of registration. Sixty-four people attended, fifty eight of whom took out membership in the fledgling organization.

Fall conventions have continued every year, the location of which has changed annually. All have in common speakers, demonstrations and performances. Records show that presenters have come from a host of professional and educational organizations including Columbia University, Yale University, The University of Bridgeport, Westport Country Playhouse, the American Shakespeare Theater, etc. Indeed, a symposium at the 1965 conventions included Viola Spolin, the well-known author of Improvisation for the Theater, Barry Weissler, who was to become a major producer of professional theater in New York, and George White, the founder of the Eugene O'Neill Center in Waterford, Connecticut.

The CDA has, since its inception, maintained membership in the New England Drama Council, an organization that sponsors an annual festival comprised of the two winners of each of New England's respective state drama festivals. These festivals rotate in an alphabetical order among the New England states.

During the late 1980's the CDA felt a necessity to draft a formal constitution, the initials steps of which were organized by Patricia Souney, the theater director from Guilford High School and treasurer of the CDA. The organization had grown tremendously by this time and talk of incorporation was in the air to better meet its needs. Members of the executive council repeatedly met with CASS pleading the cause of a three-day drama festival, due to the increasing number of schools wishing to participate. Perhaps due to a growing feeling of independence, some of which was desired and some of which was heaped upon it, the CDA looked to a constitution as a basis to formally guide growth and development.

The CDA has continued to grow, attempting to answer the needs of the burgeoning education theater programs within the state's high schools. It has created an annual "CDA Day" at one of the state regional theaters such as Long Wharf Theater in New Haven or the Hartford State Company. It has also instituted an annual "Monologue Contest" which is hosted by a different high school each year. In addition, it has developed a "Showcase Project," where member schools invite others to see their productions at reduced costs.

In September of 1996, the Connecticut Drama Association became incorporated, bringing closure to the questions first posed and trepidations first expressed some ten years earlier. The committee of Emmett T. Casey, John W. Ayres, and Julian Schlusberg worked with attorney Paula Herman of a Hartford law firm in this endeavor.


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