Index of Memorial Resolutions and Biographical Sketches
ELLSWORTH P. CONKLE
E. P. Conkle came to teach at The University of Texas at Austin in 1939, one year after the founding of the College of Fine Arts. Having received degrees from the University of Nebraska and his doctorate in Playwriting from the University of Iowa, and after spending two years at Yale in George Pierce Bakers English 47 class, he developed and led the playwriting program of the Department of Drama (now Theatre and Dance) for thirty-four years. He also became the departmental graduate advisor and was instrumental in instituting the M.F.A. and Ph.D. degree programs. For eight summers Professor Conkle taught playwriting at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Banff, Canada.
Besides teaching and advising drama students Professor Conkle constantly wrote for the theatre, himself. He had more than fifty plays published, both one-act and full-length, and for a time his own writing included a weekly CBS radio show, Honest Abe. The series was based on Conkles play about Lincoln, Prologue to Glory, originally written for and produced by the Federal Theatre Project on Broadway in 1938. His 200 Were Chosen was also produced on Broadway.
Many of his plays, rooted in American folk life, capture the humor and wisdom of country and small-town living a generation or more ago. The most famous of the short plays in this genre is the frequently produced Sparkin.
The Department of Theatre and Dance has produced several of Conkles folk plays including Johnny Appleseed in 1940. A musical version of the play, entitled Fresh From Heaven, was performed in 1973, the year Professor Conkle retired and was named Professor Emeritus. Premiere productions of full-length plays No Time for Heaven and Quest for an Answer were also mounted by the department.
Among Conkles students when he taught playwriting at the University of Iowa was Tennessee Williams; at The University of Texas students included Pat Hingle, Tommy Tune, and Fess Parker.
Ellsworth Prouty Conkle was born on July 10, 1899, and grew up on a farm in Nebraska. He received his bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Nebraska. He did graduate work at Yale University from 1926 to 1928, won a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1929, and received a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship from 1934 to 1936. He received a doctorate in playwriting at the University of Iowa in 1936.
Dr. Conkle is survived by his wife, Virginia, and a son, E. P. Conkle II, of Austin, a daughter, Alice Elena Cogdell, of Arlington, Texas; two brothers, Francis, of Wheatland, Colorado, and Orville, of Peru, Nebraska; and six grandchildren.
Robert M. Berdahl, President
The University of Texas at Austin
H. Paul Kelley, Secretary
The General Faculty
This Memorial Resolution was prepared by a special committee consisting of Professors Coleman A. Jennings (Chair), David Nancarrow, and Webster Smalley.
Conkles Published One-Act Plays:
Arlie, The Bug Boy
Bauble for the Baby, A
Chief Sittum Bull
China Handled Knife, The
Feller from Omaha, The
Funeral Piece for Rosalie, A
Gold Is Where You Dont Find It
Grannys Little Cherry Room
Heave Is Such a Long Time to Wait
If You Cant Eat Fish With Out Tenderloin
Incident at Eureka Bumps
Jewel In Papas Crown, The
Juber Bird, The
Kitten in an Elm Tree
Least One, The
Little Granny Graver
Lots of Old People Are Really Good for Something