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Release: Immediate

UI names Theatre Building spaces for Thayer, Catalano and Schaal

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The University of Iowa has re-named spaces in the Theatre Building to honor three emeritus faculty members who represent more than 100 years of service to the department of theatre arts -- David L. Thayer, Cosmo Catalano and David Schaal. The announcement of re-naming was made at a department graduation convocation on Saturday, May 17.

Theatre A, the building's flexible "black box" performance space, was re-named the David L. Thayer Theatre; the Movement Room, a performance and rehearsal space that includes a dance floor, barres and mirrors, was re-named the Cosmo Catalano Acting Studio; and the building's main conference room, Room 122, was re-named the David Schaal Conference Room.

Thayer, who retired at the end of the 1997 spring semester, was a member of the UI theater faculty for more than 40 years. He also received his master's and doctoral degrees from the UI.

In addition to heading the department's design program from 1973 to 1996, Thayer was interim and summer chair of the department on several occasions. He was production manager for the department for 20 years and served in the same capacity for all the UI performing arts departments from 1978 to 1991.

Thayer was instrumental in establishing design as a central element in the American College Theatre Festival (ACTF), and for many years he has been recognized nationally as the "dean" of American lighting design teachers.

As an artist, Thayer has designed lighting for world-premiere productions of 21 plays, seven operas and more than 100 dances, and more than 100 other productions.

Thayer served on numerous campus planning committees, including the planning committees for Hancher Auditorium, the Music Building, the UI Museum of Art and the Theatre Building addition, and he played a central role in the design of Theatre A, the space re-named for him.

In a letter to the dean of the College of Liberal Arts proposing the re-naming of Theatre A, department chair Alan MacVey wrote of Thayer, "He is the department's memory, its library, its history. He is also our conscience. This university and our art have been his life. His thoughtful probing and his dedication to quality have, I dare say, made him the most important architect of the theater department after E.C. Mabie himself."

Catalano, who retired last year, was a member of the UI faculty for 30 years. In the department of theatre arts he was managing director of Iowa Summer Rep 1967-69, professor in charge of directing and acting 1966-75, and department chair 1987-90.

He played a major role in the founding of the ACTF, and two of the productions he directed at the UI triumphed in ACTF competition, advancing to the national ACTF showcase at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Catalano received the ACTF Bronze Medallion Award of excellence, and in 1995 he was honored with the Kennedy Center/ACTF Gold Medallion for Lifetime Service.

Catalano has directed more than 100 productions, including several large-scale UI musicals that were performed in Hancher Auditorium.

MacVey wrote to the dean, "Since my arrival in 1991 I have found him to be a special source of wisdom and support. His gentle, honest, gracious manner, combined with years of experience, make him an excellent advisor to everyone from student to DEO. The Movement Room is an ideal space to name for Catalano. The room itself is the most important rehearsal/class space in the building and represents our curricular efforts at their best. By naming the room for him we will recognize his contributions and make visible our respect for the craft he has practiced so well, for so long."

Shaal was a UI professor of theatre arts from 1956 until his retirement in 1985, and he has continued to be active as an emeritus faculty member, including planning for the department's 75th-anniversary celebration last fall. He served as head of the acting and directing program, was chair of the department's play-selection committee, and was the director of graduate studies.

He regularly directed mainstage productions of University Theatres and also directed Iowa Summer Rep productions for seven seasons. He supervised nearly 40 master's theses and doctoral dissertations.

Schaal wrote numerous articles for theater journals, and he was an editor of the Education Theatre Journal 1966-71. He was chair of the Rare Books Project for the American Educational Theatre Association 1962-69.

MacVey wrote of Schaal, "Dave's intelligence, perception and clear-headed advice have helped guide the department since 1956. I and the rest of the faculty have looked to him not only for advice but for hard work."

Only two other spaces in the Theatre Building are named: the main procenium theater is named for E.C. Mabie, the department's founding chair; and the computer-aided design studio is named to honor Arnie Gillette, a long-time faculty member and department chair who wrote standard texts on technical theater.