Robert S. Breen (1909-1991) Papers
Scope and Contents
The series comprises 21 boxes of material from the years 1934-1984. The material is arranged in four subseries: Course files, Performance files, Research files, and Chamber Theatre files.
One folder at the beginning of the series contains biographical information. which includes a vita, university biographical questionnaires, and clippings. A second folder contains material concerning Breen's 25th wedding anniversary. Two folders contain material concerning Professor Breen's academic career and include a copy of his doctoral dissertation. One folder contains a small number of undated letters to Breen, most of which are from former Department of Interpretation Chairman Professor Wallace A. Bacon.
Approximately two boxes contain course materials, including course handouts and exercises.
Approximately seven and one-half boxes are devoted to Performance files and relate to Chamber and Readers' Theatre performances in which Breen both appeared and directed. The performances, from Northwestern University and elsewhere, cover the wide range of Professor Breen's performing and directing interests. The folders contain scripts, staging plans, notes and announcements, providing a useful source for understanding his theory and practice. Approximately half of the folders, however, contain very little material. They are arranged alphabetically by title of production.
Nine boxes contain Professor Breen's Research files. Many of these files touch on the performance of particular literary pieces; others concern specific issues of performance, such as gesture and movement. The material in these folders includes clippings, notes, essays and articles. They are arranged alphabetically by folder title.
The last 10 folders of box 21 contain correspondence, notes and manuscripts of Professor Breen's 1978 text, Chamber Theatre.
Addition, Boxes 22-28 This addition to the Robert S. Breen Papers includes biographical materials, correspondence, lecture notes, bibliographic notes, scripts for chamber theatre productions, a draft of Breen's M.A. thesis, and drafts of Breen's book, Chamber Theatre.
Among the biographical materials is a statement on Breen by his long-time collaborator, Wallace Bacon, as well as several certificates and clippings.
The correspondence consists mostly of letters between Breen and his wife, Gertrude, during World War II. Breen served in Europe and many of his letters describe his travels and experiences there. Some of them are quite personal. He was wounded by machine gun fire in February, 1945, and was in the hospital for several months.
Addition, Boxes 29-38 As documentation of Robert and Gertrude Breen's careers are interwoven and, in many places, indistinguishable within this second addition, the Robert and Gertrude Breen Papers conflate documents relating to both dramatic artists. Filling nine and one half archival boxes, files span the years 1909 to 1992 and include biographical, correspondence, research, and performance files, as well as files pertaining to the Breen's speeches, publications, and financial matters.
Biographical materials date from 1945 to 1992 and comprise typescript biographical sketches of Robert and Gertrude Breen; a manuscript obituary for Gertrude Breen; Robert Breen's military discharge certificate; and materials relating to Gertrude Breen's residence at The Georgian (422 Davis Street), an Evanston retirement community, from 1991 to 1992.
Dating from 1983 to 1984, merit certificates pertain to Gertrude Breen's activities with the Northwestern Alumni Association and Communications fraternity Zeta Phi Eta.
Personal documents date from 1909 to 1985 and consist of Robert and Gertrude Breen's birth certificates and passports.
Gertrude Bader's diary for the year 1930 details her experience as an undergraduate student at Northwestern University's School of Speech. Gertrude Breen's journal chronicles a trip to Mexico in December 1973. Her appointment book documents her actual and projected activities at The Georgian, an Evanston nursing facility, for the years 1991 and 1992.
Newspaper clippings span from 1932 to 1990 and document Robert and Gertrude Breen's theatre productions; performances of Gertrude's script Indian Captive, published in 1961; and the Alumni Merit Awards presented to Robert in 1981 and 1984.
Graduate recital files document Gertrude Breen's 1934 and 1935 performances as a graduate student in the Northwestern University School of Speech.
Chronologically arranged, Robert and Gertrude Breen's general correspondence files date from 1935 to 1992 and include incoming letters from family members, personal friends, and professional colleagues.
Dating from 1959 to 1990, correspondence subject files are arranged alphabetically by topic and chronologically within each folder, and include incoming and outgoing correspondence. Subjects include the Breens' financial contributions to the Northwestern Alumni Association from 1981 to 1986; Gertrude's organization of Class of 1934 reunions in 1984 and 1989; Robert's participation in the Central States Speech Association between 1983 and 1988; Gertrude's communication with author E.B. White (Charlotte's Web) and Random House publishers regarding possible children's theatre adaptations; Robert's personal and professional contact with former student John Edwards, a dramatics professor at the University of New Hampshire; Gertrude's winnings from the game show Number Please in December 1961; the organization of Robert's retirement celebration in 1978; and Summer Theatre Conferences in 1959 and 1976.
Restricted financial documents consist of the Breens' income tax and W2 forms extending from 1972 to 1980.
Dating from 1975 to 1980, the restricted Hershberger inheritance documents include correspondence concerning Gertrude Hershberger's legacy to Gertrude Breen, as well as a copy of Hershberger's Last Will and Testament.
Student papers comprise three compositions by Robert Breen's students Diane Sherer (1968), Thomas Drolet (1969), and Frances Freeman Paden (undated).
Spanning from 1954 to 1986, Robert Breen's research files consist of notes and clippings pertaining to a variety of literary theory topics, primarily the relationship of images to identity. The arrangement of research files is alphabetical by subject.
Undated speech files comprise typescripts of dramatic readings probably relating to Gertrude's audio recordings for the American Foundation for the Blind and Scott, Foresman, and Company; notes for a presentation on King Lear; and typescripts of Gertrude's tributes to colleagues Hazel Easton and Winifred Ward.
Ranging from 1952 to 1986, publication files include correspondence and contracts pertaining to Prentice-Hall's publication of Robert's book Chamber Theatre (1978), as well as a typescript of his article “Montage and the Interpretation of Literature” (1952).
Arranged alphabetically, the largely undated production files consist of drama scripts, marked with the Breens' stage directions, as well as correspondence and notes related to each production. Summer fiction scripts consist of undated, untitled dramatic sketches. One undated, untitled script on New Testament themes likely pertains to Gertrude's activity in Evanston's First United Methodist Church.
- Breen, Robert S. (Person)
- Breen, Gertrude, 1911-1992 (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
Boxes 28-38: This portion of the collection is stored off-site and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at email@example.com or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is stored at a remote campus location and requires two business days advance notice for retrieval. Please contact the McCormick Library at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-491-3635 for more information or to schedule an appointment to view the collection.
Language of Materials
Professor Robert S. Breen joined the faculty of the Northwestern University in 1947. Professor Breen’s distinguished academic career included his originating and refining the concept of Chamber Theatre. Chamber Theatre, now widely known and used, permitted the dramatic presentation of fiction and non-fiction without the artificial elimination of the narrator which more traditional dramatizations required. Readers' Theatre, the ensemble presentation of dramatic literature, were also a research and performance interest of Professor Breen. Professor Breen appeared on Broadway and performed on television and directed television productions. He married the former Gertrude Bader in 1935. As documentation of Robert and Gertrude Breen’s careers are interwoven and, in many places, indistinguishable, the Robert and Gertrude Breen Papers conflate documents relating to both dramatic artists. This series contains course materials, performance files which document theatre performances in which Breen both appeared and directed, research files as well as correspondence files.
The series comprises 21 boxes of material from the years 1934-1984. The material is arranged in four subseries: Course files, Performance files, Research files, and Chamber Theatre files. Papers are primarily arranged alphabetically by folder title.
Method of Acquisition
The Robert S. Breen Papers were donated to the University Archives by Professor Breen on June 14, 1987 as Accession #87-182.
One linear foot of the Cameo of Zeta Phi Eta was added to the Northwestern University Archives serials file; one folder of photographs were added to the University Archives' photographs collection; several copies of Ph.D. dissertations from the Department of Interpretation were discarded as duplicates of copies held in the University Library's general collection.
Patricia Cloud. Hal Taylor, September-December. 1987.
- Guide to the Robert S. Breen (1909-1991) Papers
- Patricia Cloud and Hal Taylor
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository
Deering Library, Level 3
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US