During this decade the number of theatre majors dropped precipitously, due in part to the retirement of Professor Glen Wilson and the sudden illness of Professor Doug Hatfield. The new President, Robert Garvin, determined it was time to split the combined Drama and Speech Department. In 1986 the Dramatic Arts department came into existence, and Sears Eldridge was hired as Chair. The following year, Professor Cynthia Goatley was hired to teach Acting and History courses and direct main stage productions. Joining Professor Eldredge, the Chair, and Professor Keyser, the Resident Designer and Technical Director, this new hire completed the faculty in the newly formed department.
Dance classes and dance performances were a part of Macalester College as early as the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that dance became part of the Dramatic Arts department. In 1988, the Dance Program, which had previously been part of the Physical Education Department, found a home in the Dramatic Arts department. With the integration of the Dance Program, headed by Professor Becky Heist, the department was renamed Dramatic Arts and Dance.
By the end of the decade, the Dramatic Arts and Dance Department was seeing a return to a healthy number of majors and an increase in its departmental budget. An endowment from Ruth Easton arrived and provided additional financial support for departmental events and projects. In 1988 Professors Keyser and Eldredge started the development of the Production Handbook that became a guiding document for the department’s productions and curriculum.