Guide to the Records of the Children's Theatre of Evanston

Collection Title: Records of the Children's Theatre of Evanston
Dates: 1925-1986
Identification: 55/19
Creator: Children's Theatre of Evanston
Extent: 3 Boxes
Language of Materials: English
Abstract: The records of the Children's Theatre date from 1925 to 1986, with the bulk of the records falling between 1957 and 1986. Arranged into rough categories of administration, education, fundraising, and production, these records document the Theatre's changing relationships with Northwestern University and School District 65; the practice of Ward's drama education theory at public schools in Evanston; and Theatre performances between 1925 and 1986.
Formation records include historical materials and clippings, dating from 1957 to 1981; and records pertaining to the Children's Theatre's incorporation and by-laws, which document its establishment as an independent, “not-for-profit” organization after financial support from School District 65 ceased in 1971.
Administrative records consist of general files date from 1961 to 1986 and comprise budgets; job and administrative descriptions; and correspondence from director Rita Criste, executive director Jane Triplett, and drama supervisor Anne Thurman pertaining to theatre finances, administration, and educational partnerships with District 65 and Northwestern University. Financial records (1964 to 1984) consist of Theatre budget statements and projections.
Dating from 1967 to 1968, Anne Thurman's correspondence with the District 65 Drama Staff relates to Staff business and meetings.
Acquisition Information: This series unites Accession #87-207, separated from the Northwestern University Archives general files and the Anne Thurman Papers on September 9, 1987, with Accession #93-65, received on May 17, 1993. Both accessions were donated to the University Archives by Anne Thurman, Professor Emeritus of Theatre at Northwestern University.
Processing Information: Rae Sikula and Janet Olson; August 1999
Separated Materials: A small number of duplicate items were removed and discarded. Photographs and slides related to the productions “The Clam Made a Face” (1980), “Step on a Crack” (1981), “Emperor's Nightingale” (1981), “Most Powerful Jujus” (1984), “Ice Wolf” (1985), and “Wilma's Revenge” (1986) were removed and added to the University Archives' photographic collections. One folder relating to the 1985 Summer Theatre Festival was removed and added to the Records of the Summer Theatre Festival, Accession #91-173.
Conditions Governing Access: None.
Related Materials: Additional information on the Children's Theatre of Evanston may be found in the Winifred Ward Papers (1917-1977), Series 20/8; the Anne H. Thurman Papers, Series 20/44; and the unprocessed records of the Children's Theatre Conference, Summer Theatre Festival, and Evanston School District 65.
Repository: Northwestern University Archives
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL, 60208-2300
URL: http://www.library.northwestern.edu/archives
Email: archives@northwestern.edu
Phone: 847-491-3354

Biographical/Historical Information

A pioneer institution in children's drama, the Children's Theatre of Evanston (IL) was founded in 1925 by Winifred Ward, Assistant Professor of Oratory at Northwestern University and Supervisor of Drama Education at Evanston's elementary schools; Ralph Dennis, Dean of Northwestern's School of Speech; and Alexander Dean, head of the University Theatre Department. The purpose of the Children's Theatre was to train University, secondary, and junior-high students in the production and performance of drama while providing the children of Evanston with rich theatre experiences.

To these ends, Ward and succeeding directors Rita Criste (1950-1967) and Jane Triplett (1967-1976) developed supplementary Children's Theatre conferences, workshops, and classroom activities which integrated pre-existing “creative dramatics” programs at the public schools with academic scholarship in drama and the practical experience of producing, performing, and viewing children's plays.

Conceived and initially financed as a Speech program, the Theatre held its first two seasons at the University's Annie May Swift Hall, with staff support from the School of Speech's Thalian Dramatic Club. In 1927 Ward and Dennis reorganized the Theatre as a collaboration among the Evanston Public School districts and Northwestern University. Performances moved from Swift Hall to the auditorium of Haven Middle School (District 75), 2417 Prairie Avenue, and in 1929 to Nichols Middle School (District 76), 800 Greenleaf Road. Over the next forty years the Theatre's financial sponsorship shifted gradually from the University to Public School District 65, so that by 1966 the Children's Theatre—by this time officially renamed “Theatre 65”—received only staff and administrative guidance from the School of Speech. In 1966 the Theatre also acquired its own building at 1316 Oakton Avenue.

However, in 1971 School District 65 cut the Theatre from its operating budget, forcing the Theatre to seek financial support from the government and individual donors. Educators from both the University and the public schools established the Association for Children's Theatre (ACT) in 1972 to raise funds for Theatre 65; their aggressive membership campaign failed to cover the Theatre's increasing production costs. The Theatre closed in 1976 after its fiftieth season. In 1980 Northwestern revived the Children's Theatre as a University arts program, presenting Mainstage, Tour, Summer, and Participatory productions to the Evanston community. Northwestern Theatre Professor Anne Hardy Thurman directed the Children's Theatre until her retirement in 1985.

Scope and Content

The records of the Children's Theatre date from 1925 to 1986, with the bulk of the records falling between 1957 and 1986. Arranged into rough categories of administration, education, fundraising, and production, these records document the Theatre's changing relationships with Northwestern University and School District 65; the practice of Ward's drama education theory at public schools in Evanston; and Theatre performances between 1925 and 1986.

Formation records include historical materials and clippings, dating from 1957 to 1981; and records pertaining to the Children's Theatre's incorporation and by-laws, which document its establishment as an independent, “not-for-profit” organization after financial support from School District 65 ceased in 1971.

Administrative records consist of general files date from 1961 to 1986 and comprise budgets; job and administrative descriptions; and correspondence from director Rita Criste, executive director Jane Triplett, and drama supervisor Anne Thurman pertaining to theatre finances, administration, and educational partnerships with District 65 and Northwestern University. Financial records (1964 to 1984) consist of Theatre budget statements and projections.

Dating from 1967 to 1968, Anne Thurman's correspondence with the District 65 Drama Staff relates to Staff business and meetings. Of note is a page of typed, undated excerpts of letters from Winifred Ward, founder of the Children's Theatre, and two former members of the Drama Staff. The Drama Staff agendas and schedules (1958-1984) and Drama Staff minutes (1956 to 1967) pertain to meetings of the District 65 Creative Drama teachers, at which instructors of grades 1-9 from various Evanston schools coordinated programs and discussed teaching strategies for each grade level. Records of workshops in “creative dramatics” attended by District 65's drama teachers comprise notes, agendas, and worksheets dating from 1957 to 1969.

Dating from 1967 to 1973, the “curriculum enrichment materials”--lists of activities in science, social studies, and the language arts--were distributed by Theatre 65 to the teachers of elementary school classes attending Theatre performances.

Drafts of speeches delivered by Anne Thurman and District 65 teachers Beatrice Morris, Ruth Tretbar, and Leah Nathanson from 1964 to 1966 discuss drama education's potential to develop creativity and interpersonal skills among participating children.

Association for Children's Theatre (ACT) agendas and minutes document ACT meetings which resulted in the incorporation and funding of an independent Children's Theatre of Evanston in 1974. Association for Children's Theatre membership records list ACT board and committee membership as well as donors to the ACT.

Records of Children's Theatre Productions date from 1957 to 1986 and are organized by type of production: Christmas, Mainstage, Participatory Theatre, Summer, and Tour productions. The files are arranged chronologically within each category. Production records comprise performance advertisements; production budgets; audition schedules and materials; rehearsal schedules; audience evaluations of the performance; and thank-you letters from teachers and schoolchildren who had watched the performance.

Mainstage productions: “Step on a Crack” (1981); “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (1984); and “The Wizard of Oz” (1985).

Participatory Theatre productions: “The Clam Made a Face” (1980); “The Fool of the World” (1982); “Mirrorman, “The Clown,” and “Take Me to Your Treasure” (1983); “Most Powerful Jujus”, “Magical Faces”, and “Emperor's Nightingale” (1984); and “Hans Christian Anderson”, “Dog and the Stone”, and “Crossroads” (1985).

Summer Theatre productions: “The Great Cross-Country Race” (1983); “Charlotte's Web” (1984); “Beauty and the Beast” (1985); and “The Thirteen Clocks” (1986).

Tour shows: “Androcles and the Lion” (1983); “Wiley and the Hairy Man” (1984); “Step on a Crack” (1985); and “Wilma's Revenge” (1986).

Also included are Performance programs, dating from the Theatre's founding in 1925 to 1986; and performance advertisements, dating from 1983 to 1985. A final folder contains an undated script of “A Bear called Paddington", a children's play.

Subjects

Corporate Name

Children's Theatre of Evanston

Theatre 65

Subjects

Children's theater--Illinois--Evanston

Theater--Study and teaching (Higher)--Illinois--Evanston


Container List / Contents

  • Historical Materials and Clippings, 1957-1975Box 1, Folder 1
  • Incorporation and By-Laws, 1972-1974Box 1, Folder 2
  • General Files, 1961-1986Box 1, Folder 3
  • Financial Records, 1964-1984Box 1, Folder 4
  • Correspondence, 1967-1968Box 1, Folder 5
  • Drama Staff Agendas and Schedules, 1958-1984Box 1, Folder 6
  • Drama Staff Minutes, 1957-1962Box 1, Folder 7
  • Workshops, 1957-1969Box 1, Folder 8
  • Curriculum Enrichment Materials, 1967-1973Box 2, Folder 1
  • Speeches, 1964-1966Box 2, Folder 2
  • Association for Children's Theatre (ACT) Board Meetings, 1966-1973Box 2, Folder 3
  • ACT Membership Lists, 1971-1974Box 2, Folder 4
  • Christmas Productions, 1957Box 2, Folder 5
  • Mainstage Productions, 1981Box 2, Folder 6
  • Mainstage Productions, 1984Box 2, Folder 7
  • Mainstage Productions, 1985Box 2, Folder 8
  • Participatory Theatre Productions, 1980Box 2, Folder 9
  • Participatory Theatre Productions, 1982Box 2, Folder 10
  • Participatory Theatre Productions, 1983Box 2, Folder 11
  • Participatory Theatre Productions, 1984Box 2, Folder 12
  • Participatory Theatre Productions, 1985Box 2, Folder 13
  • Participatory Theatre Productions, 1986Box 2, Folder 14
  • Summer Productions, 1983Box 2, Folder 15
  • Summer Productions, 1984Box 2, Folder 16
  • Summer Productions, 1985Box 2, Folder 17
  • Summer Productions, 1986Box 2, Folder 18
  • Tour Productions, 1983Box 2, Folder 19
  • Tour Productions, 1984Box 2, Folder 20
  • Tour Productions, 1985Box 2, Folder 21
  • Tour Productions, 1986Box 2, Folder 22
  • Performance Programs, 1925-1986Box 3, Folder 1
  • Performance Advertisements, 1983-1985Box 3, Folder 2
  • Script, n.d.Box 3, Folder 3