DIGITAL: The UT Theatre Playbills, 1935-2013
Biographical Note: The University of Tennessee Theatre Playbills Collection showcases the history of theatre at the University of Tennessee, beginning with the UT Faculty Players to the current incarnation of the Clarence Brown Theatre Company.
Scope and Content Note: These playbills are organized by year, beginning with Polly with a Past, performed on May 13, 1935, which consists of a single paper, folded into four typed pages. The most recent playbill is from On the Razzle, performed on April 25, 2013, and is a colorful booklet with 44 pages full of information and advertising. Each playbill can be viewed online or downloaded as a PDF, and the collection can be searched at either the title level or through the full text of all playbills.
Topics and Themes: University of Tennessee, College and university theatre, Stage productions, Theatre education, Local performances, publishing, Student life, Publicity and marketing, Musicals, Dramas
Biographical Note: Amateur theatre groups, including the Faculty Players from 1933 to 1943, have been active on UT’s campus since the 1830s. In 1936, these developed into the UT Playhouse under director Paul Soper. In 1951, Soper began a summer program, which was financially successful enough to being plans for a permanent theatre building on campus. The Carousel Theatre was built in 1952 and 1953, and by 1958 all of the plays produced by the University were performed in it.
Continued growth led to the creation of a department of Speech and Theatre in 1968 and a need for more performance space. Clarence Brown, an alumnus and very successful Hollywood director, contributed $50,000 to the initial request for funds, and assisted in designing what would be named the Clarence Brown Theatre. He later bequeathed a $12 million endowment. In the 1980s the UT Theatres developed several international programs and exchanges, and in the 1990s they began offering a MFA degree.
Scope and Content Note: The two boxes in this collection contain materials in a variety of formats, including application materials, guide books for technical crews and performers, a great many photographs, papers for planning and running programs and events, marketing materials, scripts and prompt cards, newsletters, and financial records. Topics include grant programs, the theatre buildings, academic programs, actual productions of several plays, special opportunities in Eastern Europe, and many events and celebrations including a costume auction.
Topics and Themes: Stage productions, Theatre education, Theatre buildings, Celebrations and events, Stagecraft, University of Tennessee, Student life, College and university theatre, Local performances, International performances (Eastern Europe), Publicity and marketing, Film festivals, Musicals, Dramas
Biographical Note: Owen Stanley Fawcett was born in London, England in 1838, and emigrated to the United States in 1942. He began his stage career in 1853, in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. During his 50-year-long career, he often visited England, acting and writing newspaper columns while there. He died at his home in Flat Rock, Michigan, on February 21, 1904.
Scope and Content Note: This box contains nine scrapbooks that Fawcett created by cutting out newspaper columns about actors and other stage news from the 1880s and 1890s, many of them written by him for The Circular, a monthly paper in Oswestry, England. He titles most of these scrapbooks The Stage. Anecdotal, Biographical, and Chronological, although there are very few dates included. The biographies include etchings, sketches, and photos that were printed in the papers. The columns called “Rambles with My Pipe” have illustrations of theatres and other locations of interest. Scrapbooks 6 and 7 feature articles about Edwin Booth, brother of John Wilkes Booth and a famous Shakespearean actor of the time.
Topics and Themes: Theatres – 19th century, Actors, Anecdotes, Shakespeare, Humor columns, Arts and entertainment news, Stage productions
Biographical Note: James Dobson was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1920. After graduating from Greeneville High School, he moved to New York City as a 17-year-old to pursue his passion for acting. While there, he worked in radio and on Broadway. He began his film career in 1947, and appeared in over 30 films. He also became a writer, producer, and production assistant. His television credits include a recurring role on The Love Boat. Dobson died in 1987 of a heart attack.
Scope and Content Note: These boxes contain material about Dobson, including a handwritten autobiography, photographs, and a list of his credits; material by Dobson, including letters to his parents, lyrics for show tunes, scripts, and other forms of creative writing; and material collected by Dobson, including Love Boat scripts and production documents, photographs of other actors, and a variety of promotional materials.
Topics and Themes: Stage productions, Motion pictures (film), Television, Musicals, Actors, National performances
Biographical Note: Clarence Brown was born in 1890 and moved to Knoxville, Tennessee in 1902, graduating from the University of Tennessee in 1910. After working with cars for several years, he moved to New Jersey to study directing under Maurice Tourneur. During his career in film, Brown directed or produced more than fifty full-length motion pictures, worked with many of the film industry’s most illustrious stars, and was nominated for Best Director six times. He retired from film in 1952. Brown remained involved with the University of Tennessee throughout his life, contributing development funds and expertise towards the construction of the Clarence Brown Theater and leaving the University an additional $12 million after his death on August 17, 1987.
Scope and Content Note: This box of materials includes many photographs of his homes and of him with his friends and colleagues. It also includes press clippings, unpublished scripts, interview transcripts, chapters from a book he was writing, and correspondence and publicity for the Clarence Brown Film Festival in Knoxville.
Topics and Themes: Motion pictures (film), Directors, National performances, Publicity and marketing, Film festivals
Additional Resources to Consider:
DIGITAL COLLECTION: The Volunteer Yearbooks, 1897-2009
The Volunteer Yearbook was first published in 1897 and – with the exception of the 1918 interruption of school activities by World War I – it has continued ever since. In this collection, each volume is included in its entirety, and can be viewed online and searched by keyword. Yearbook coverage concerning the Speech and Theatre Department and its performances began in 1968.
DIGITAL COLLECTION: Tennessee Newspaper Digitization Project, 1860s-1922
As part of the Chronicling America project, UTK has digitized many newspapers from across the state. The entire site contains newspapers from around the country, which can be limited by location, date, or title and can be searched by keyword. Each page, article, ad, or cartoon can be downloaded as a PDF, and a machine-transcribed text is available (although not entirely accurate).