In 2004, the Ralph L. Collins Lecturer was Don B. Wilmeth, preeminent American Theatre historian. His two lectures were entitled Prelude to a New Millennium: American Theatre, World War II to 2000 and American Memory: The Variety Stage, 1870 to 1920.
Dr. Wilmeth, as the Asa Messer Professor Emeritus at Brown University, is Professor of Theatre and English Emeritus and past chair of the Department of Theatre, Speech, and Dance there. He is author, editor, and co-editor for Cambridge University Press in their highly regarded Cambridge Guide to American Theatre, Cambridge History of American Theatre and Cambridge Guide to Theatre. His book George Frederick Cooke: Machiavel of the Stage was distinguished with the Hewitt Award. Dr. Wilmeth is a former President and Secretary of the American Society for Theatre Research, and has received their Career Achievement Award, the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, as well as a major teaching award from the American Theatre and Drama Association. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 1982 and Dean of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre from 1996 to 1998. Dr. Wilmeth continues working as a director and an actor. Most recently he has worked on John Websters’ The Dutchess of Malfi, Corneilles’ The Illusion, adapted by Tony Kushner, Sweeney Todd and Candide. He also appeared as a Talking Head on the PBS series American Experience in a documentary on Harry Houdini. Other books by Dr. Wilmeth include The Language of American Popular Entertainment, Variety Entertainment and Outdoor Amusements, Mud Show, American and English Popular Entertainment, editions of plays by Augustin Daly and William Gillette, and documents on American theatre, Civil War to WWI (the latter in 1996). Dr. Wilmeth is also the editor of Staging the Nation: Plays from the American Theatre, 1787-1909.