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Fletcher Collins Jr., scholar in medieval, Elizabethan arts

WASHINGTON -- Fletcher Collins Jr., a leading scholar of the music and drama of Elizabethan and medieval times and an officially recognized cultural treasure of Virginia, died May 6 of pneumonia at his Staunton, Va., home. He was 98.

A drama professor at Mary Baldwin College in Staunton for more than three decades, Dr. Collins was a musician and filmmaker, founded two theaters, did research on folk songs, and wrote a study of the songs in Shakespeare's plays. In 1981, the Virginia General Assembly gave him the title of Cultural Laureate of Virginia.

After moving to the Shenandoah Valley in 1946 to try his hand at farming, Dr. Collins concluded that he was better suited to his original profession of college teaching. He became head of the drama department at Mary Baldwin in 1947 and developed a theater program that won international acclaim.

Known to students and colleagues as ''Fletch," Dr. Collins founded the outdoor Oak Grove Theater in 1953 on his farm. In 1965, he launched Theater Wagon, a traveling theater troupe that has performed along the East Coast and overseas. Several of his students became professional performers, directors, and teachers.

After retiring from Mary Baldwin in 1978, Dr. Collins produced and directed a film based on a 13th-century French church drama. The award-winning film, ''Visitatio Sepulchri" (Visit to the Sepulcher), was made in 1979 at the St. Benoit de Fleury abbey in the Loire Valley of France, where the play had been written 800 years before. It was reissued last year as a DVD.

Dr. Collins wrote two books about medieval music dramas and one book of translated songs of French troubadours.

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