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Converse, John Clifford | Lake Forest College Archives and Special Collections

Name: Converse, John Clifford


Historical Note:

<p class="intro" style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; font-size: 1.33333333333333rem; line-height: 1.35em; color: rgb(130, 130, 130); font-family: AvenirLTStd-Light, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, sans-serif;"> John Clifford Converse was thirty-seven years old when he first applied in February, 1949, to join the Lake Forest College faculty; he soon was hired by President Ernest Johnson upon the retirement of Tommy Tomlinson (1928-49).

<p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1.42857143em; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: AvenirLTStd-Book, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, sans-serif;"> Converse’s preparation included his 1934 B.S. in Speech and history, Kent State U., Ohio (1931-34); graduate work in speech and drama at Kent State, 1936-40; graduate work in speech and drama at Northwestern U., 1944; and his 1947 M.S. degree from Kent State U. in speech and drama, 1946-47.  From 1936 to 1944 he taught speech and drama in several Ohio schools, including Brush H.S., Cleveland, 1943-44; he also directed a community theater in Cleveland then.  He taught (dir., speech and acting) in Lyons Twp. H.S., La Grange, IL, 1944-46, while he also was director of the Hinsdale Village Players.  From 1946 to 1949 he was director of Speech, at the U. of Minnesota – Duluth. 

<p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1.42857143em; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: AvenirLTStd-Book, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, sans-serif;"> The seasoned John Converse joined the Speech and Theater department in that fall of 1949 and became the new head of the venerable (by then, founded in 1903-04) Garrick Players, the College’s theater club and amateur production company.  In this new role he also led a Radio Varsity Club for weekly radio shows and launched a new outdoor (South Campus) Summer Theater by the summer of 1950, something that continued for many years (in a pre-air conditioned era).  Several plays were offered that summer, after July 13 an additional three, including “Taming of the Shrew.”  1950s Summer Theater Students built sets outdoors and even landscaped the stage area, putting in hedges, etc.  In 1952 he also revived the “David Garrick” production which had launched the Garrick Players fifty years earlier. 

<p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1.42857143em; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: AvenirLTStd-Book, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, sans-serif;"> In 1958 Converse taught a children’s theater course (the height of the baby boom era), and took the production based on a student-written script to three elementary schools in Northbrook, Highland Park, and Lake Forest. The College students under Converse also joined Waukegan’s Anida Sedala school of dancing and the Waukegan-Lake County Philharmonic in a production of Lehar’s “The Merry Widow” at Waukegan’s high school’s east campus Little theater (Chicago Trib., April 6, 1967).   

<p style="margin: 0px 0px 1em; font-size: 14px; line-height: 1.42857143em; color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: AvenirLTStd-Book, 'Helvetica Neue', Helvetica, sans-serif;"> His Garrick productions were of high quality from “Taming of the Shrew” (1950) and “Othello” (1956) to “Bye Bye Birdie,” the latter in the early 1970s, shortly before his June 1975 retirement.  His tenure of twenty-six seasons surpassed that of Tomlinson or, for that matter, of any other Garrick director before or since.




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