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University of Iowa Department of Theatre Arts Records

Identifier: RG06.0024.003

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Scope and Contents

The Records of the Department of Theatre Arts consist of eleven series: Scrapbooks, Playwrights Workshop Scripts, Index Card Files, Program-Picture Files, Theatre Building, Administrative, Play Programs, Audiovisual Materials, Student Organizations, Iowa Shakespeare Festival, and Iowa Community Theatre Association.

Series I: Scrapbooks. Arranged chronologically by year. Includes newspaper clippings, playbills, and programs. Each entry in the inventory represents one volume. Housed in oversized flat boxes. 42.0 ft.

Series II: Playwrights Workshop Scripts. Arranged alphabetically by name of author. Consists of three accruals received at the archives on separate occasions; authors may be represented in one or more of these accruals. 67.5 ft.

Series III: Index Card Files. The series consists of 11 sub-series. 9.0 ft. Productions by Author; Experimental Theatre Productions by Author; Masters Theses by Author; Masters Theses by Topic; Doctoral Candidates by Author; Dissertations by Topic; Productions by Director; Productions by Designer; Productions by Title (1920-2000); Productions by Date (1920-2000); Talent by Name (1930-1980)

Series IV: Program-Picture Files. A majority of student productions from about 1921 to 2000 are represented, arranged alphabetically by name of production, including Summer Repertory Theatre. Files include programs, playbills, photographs of sets and actors, and other information pertaining to the specific production. 37.5 ft.

Series V: Theatre Building. Pertains to the development and management of the Theatre Building, constructed in 1936. 7.5 ft.

Series VI: Administrative. Includes Federal Theatre Project, faculty and staff minutes, correspondence. 9.0 ft.

Series VII: Play Programs. Arranged chronologically by year. Files include Mainstage publication, Iowa Shakespeare Festival, Iowa New Play Festival, Iowa Playwrights Festival, and Summer Repertory Theatre. 3.0 ft.

Series VIII: Audiovisual Materials. 9.0 ft.

Series IX: Student Organizations. Includes Purple Mask, University Players, University Theatre Student Board of Governors, Out-of-Door Players, and National Collegiate Players Pi Epsilon Delta. 2.0 ft.

Series X: Iowa Shakespeare Festival. 1.0 ft.

Series XI: Iowa Community Theatre Association. Documents collaborative productions between the University and community-based companies. 0.25 ft.


  • Creation: 1882 - 2000


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright restrictions may apply; please consult Special Collections staff for further information.

Biographical / Historical

Courses pertaining to public performance - speaking, acting, interpretive reading, debate and other activities - may be traced to 1855, the first year of classes at the University of Iowa. According to H. Clay Harshbarger's paper, "Some Highlights of the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art," cited in Related Materials below, one of the nine departments of the University in 1855 was Intellectual Philosophy, "embracing Intellectual Philosophy, Logic, Rhetoric, Oratory, and Elements of Criticism."

By 1900, courses in "expression in voice and action," "literary interpretation" and the "function of imagination and dramatic instinct in expression" appeared in the University's general catalog. The arrival of Edward Charles Mabie in the summer of 1920 as a professor of speech was a significant turning point in the development of performance art at UI. Mabie was named head of the newly named Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts in 1925, a position he held for over 30 years, until his death in 1956.

During this period instruction in theatre arts at the University of Iowa expanded substantially, highlighted by the dedication of the Theatre Building in 1936, Mabie's leadership as a regional director of the Federal Theatre Project, and a considerable expansion of the department's curriculum.

At various times in its history, the department's name has encompassed several disciplines: dramatic art, theatre arts, public speaking, and communication studies. The Harshbarger paper and other works cited below discuss in more detail the administrative history of the program, its relationship with other academic programs, and its numerous name changes through the years.


187.75 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Method of Acquisition

These materials were transferred to the University Archives from the Department of Theatre Arts at various times. They include accessions coordinated by David Thayer, prof. emeritus, in 2003 and 2004.

Related Materials

Davee, Paul W. "Definition of the philosophy underlying the recognition and teaching of theatre as a fine art in the liberal arts and graduate curricula at the State University of Iowa." Ph. D. dissertation, University of Iowa, 1950.

Gilman, Rebecca. "Sesquicentennial: Theatre in Iowa City: Upon the 150 th Birthday of Iowa City, a Brief Theatrical Look Back." In Historical Papers Collection (RG01.0001.003)

Harshbarger, H. Clay. "Some Highlights of the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art." In Historical Papers Collection (RG01.0001.003)

Papers of H. Clay Harshbarger (RG99.0187)

Jones, Elinor F. "The University Theatre." Iowa City, 1945. 21 pp. In "History of the University of Iowa, Miscellaneous Papers," 4. Archives LD2568 .H58 1942 v. 3-4.

Koch, John Charles. "The Federal Theatre Project: Region IV--A Structural and Historical Analysis of How It Functioned and What It Accomplished." Ph.D. dissertation, University of Nebraska, 1981. 339 pp. Dissertation Abstracts International 42: 913-A. Ch. 2, "The Iowa Federal Theatre Project," pp. 18-39. Media Services 26420.

Papers of Edward Charles Mabie (RG99.0188)

Organizations and Clubs Vertical Files Collection, including Dramatic Club, No Shame Theater, Purple Mask, University Players (RG01.0015.004)

Sellen, Eric. "Dream to Reality: Getting a Theatre Building, 1920-85." In Theatre Building, the University of Iowa: Dedication Playbook, September 1985, pp. 6-12, illus., plans. Iowa City, 1985. Archives, in Buildings and Grounds Vertical File (RG01.0015.002) in "Theater Building" folder.

Subject Vertical Files Collection, Speech and Dramatic Art category (RG01.0015.005)

Young, William C. Famous American Playhouses, 1900-1971. Documents of American Theatre History, 2. Chicago: American Library Association, 1973. 297 pp., illus., plans, notes, bibliog. "University of Iowa," 2: 201-205. Theatre Building. Main.

Additionally, materials pertaining to noted alumni of the University of Iowa's dramatic arts program, such as Tennessee Williams, may be found in various sources, including citations in the University Archives' online bibliography.

Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Iowa Archives Repository

100 Main Library
University of Iowa Libraries
Iowa City IA 52242