Carolina Playmakers collection of playbills and programs
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Carolina Playmakers was the theatrical company in residence at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, from 1918 to 1976, when it was succeeded by the PlayMakers Repertory Company, currently active. The Playmakers were established by English professor Frederick Henry Koch (1877-1944), who modeled the new company after the example set by the Dakota Playmakers, another dramatic group that Koch had founded in previous years, when he was a faculty member at the University of North Dakota. The following note on Koch and the Carolina Playmakers is excerpted from Koch's biographical sketch written by Samuel Selden for the Dictionary of North Carolina Biography (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1988, vol. 3, p. 381):
Frederick Henry Koch, 12 September 1877-16 August 1944, was born in Covington, Kentucky, in a family of nine boys and one girl. His father, August William Koch, was of German ancestry; his mother, Rebecca Cornelia Julian Koch, came from French stock. August, an accountant and cashier in the Etna Life Insurance Company, was a freehand artist and inventor. His imaginative bent showed up in his children: three of his sons became architects, the daughter a singer. From his father, Frederick obtained creative talents, from his mother a playful disposition."
"Koch grew up in Illinois. He attended Peoria High School and Caterals Methodist College, then Ohio Wesleyan, from which he was graduated with the A.B. degree in 1900. Wishing passionately to become an actor, he spent some time at the Emerson School of Oratory in Boston, but when his family frowned on his histrionic ambition, Koch enrolled at Harvard to study English literature. Unable to stifle completely his thespian urge, however, he traveled around the countryside giving readings of Shakespeare. He was awarded the M.A. degree in 1909."
"At Harvard, Koch fell under the dramatic influence of George Pierce Baker who was, at the time, stirring a group of young men and women to write plays on Native American subjects. After graduation, Koch took an extended trip to Greece, North Africa, Syria, Egypt, and Palestine. At Athens he met an Irish-American girl, Loretta Jean Hanigan, whom he married in 1910. They had four sons: Frederick, George, Robert, and William. From 1905 to 1918, Koch taught English at the University of North Dakota where, besides conducting courses in literature, he founded the Dakota Playmakers. The Playmakers produced one-act plays on the life of the state, written by students. The plays were trouped around North Dakota and presented to schools and communities, some of which had never before seen a dramatic performance."
"Informed of the singularly productive work being done by Professor Koch in the Midwest, President Edward Kidder Graham of The University of North Carolina wished to develop similar creative activity at his institution. In 1918, he wrote to Koch and persuaded him to come to the Southeast. In Chapel Hill, Koch taught dramatic literature and playwriting for twenty-six years. Young men and women from every section of the state came to work with him, and they were soon joined by students from other states, then from abroad; Canada, England, Germany, Egypt, Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Mexico, Chile, and elsewhere. Among the dramatists, novelists, and short-story writers (authors, who were inspired and guided in one way or another by the lively theater man from the Midwest) were Thomas Wolfe, Paul Green, Betty Smith, Jonathan Daniels, Noel Houston, Joseph Mitchell, Frances Gray Patton, Bernice Kelly Harris, Le Gette Blythe, Howard Richardson, and Josefina Niggli."
"To provide a means for his authors to see their work in performances, Koch organized a producing group, the Carolina Playmakers, modeled on the Playmakers of North Dakota. Many of the actors, directors, dancers, and designers who received instruction at The University of North Carolina later entered the professional world of the stage, motion pictures, and television. The university group--again following the example of the Dakota students--trouped their plays all over North Carolina, and extended their tours to such far-off places as New York, Boston, Dallas, and St. Louis."
"With the help of the University Extension Department and its associates, Koch established a Bureau of Community Drama, with a field secretary, which developed dramatic centers in other parts of the state. The productions of high school, college, and community groups were brought yearly to the university in Chapel Hill where they were staged in a spring Festival. Thirty years after Koch's death, the yearly Festival was still being held."
"Selected student-written plays were published by Koch in five volumes: Carolina Folk Plays (in four series) and American Folk Plays. He sponsored single authors' works in Alabama Folk Plays, by Kate Porter Lewis; Folk Plays of Eastern Carolina, by Bernice Kelly Harris; and Mexican Folk Plays, by Josefina Niggli. Some of Miss Niggli's short stories were combined and produced as a motion picture, Sombrero. Outdoor historical plays, inspired by Koch and written by Paul Green and Kermit Hunter, were produced and published."
"Koch used the term 'folk play' in the sense of the German 'volk' (common people), thus describing his employment of the word: "The term 'folk,' as we use it, has nothing to do with the folk play of medieval times. But rather is it concerned with folk subject matter: with the legends, superstitions, customs, environmental differences, and the vernacular of the common people. For the most part they are realistic and human; sometimes they are imaginative and poetic." The early plays of Eugene O'Neill and Paul Green, Koch regarded as folk plays; the dramas of such writers as Bernard Shaw and John Von Druten were not."
"A man of remarkable energy and enthusiasm, Koch remained active until the time of his death. He was buried in the old Chapel Hill Cemetery."
The Carolina Playmakers collection of playbills and programs consists of about 350 items documenting the theatrical activities organized or promoted by the Playmakers, Frederick H. Koch, and, more generally, the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, between 1918 and 1953.
The material has been divided in two separate series. Series I consists of playbills, programs, and promotional material connected to the theatrical seasons of the Carolina Playmakers. Notable activities include productions of original folk plays written by the members of the company, including Paul Green, Loretto Carroll Bailey, Gertrude Coffin, Thomas Wolfe, Eugenia Rawls, and Josefina Niggli. Many of these productions were also presented by the Playmakers during extensive national tours, many of which are documented in the series by brochures and programs. The series also contains materials relating to productions of classic and contemporary works by authors such as William Shakespeare, Aristophanes, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Oscar Wilde, Ellen Wood, William Schwenck Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan, Henrik Ibsen, Noel Coward, Eugene O'Neill, George Bernard Shaw, Arthur Miller, and Bertolt Brecht, among others. Finally, the series comprises invitations, promotional materials, and newsletters distributed by the company. As a whole, this material provides researchers an overview of the many theatrical activities promoted by the Carolina Playmakers in its first decades.
Series II comprises material concerning the cultural initiatives organized by the University of North Carolina, along with other programs, playbills, and brochures relating to events and activities involving the Carolina Playmakers or their founder, Frederick H. Koch. Included in the series are the programs of the meetings, festivals, and contests organized by the Carolina Dramatic Association, an organization created by the Carolina Playmakers and the University Extension Department's Bureau of Community Drama to promote the study and practice of theater in North Carolina schools and communities. The series also contains a small number of playbills and programs of special performances promoted by several departments and organizations affiliated with the University of North Carolina, such as the Department of German, the Department of Romance Languages, and the Student Entertainment Committee. A separate folder contains programs and brochures relating to special performances organized by the Carolina Playmakers, as well as productions of new plays written by Frederick Koch's students during the special courses he taught at the University of Colorado, the City University of New York, and the Banff School of Fine Arts. Another folder includes the programs of two successful outdoor dramas by Paul Green, The Lost Colony (productions of 1937, 1939, and 1941), and The Highland Call (presented in 1939 as part of a larger festival titled "The Highlanders: 1739-1939"). This series allows researchers to consider the institutional context in which the Carolina Playmakers operated, and offers insight on similar experiences inspired or directly organized by Koch and the Playmakers at other universities.
The items in the collection were acquired between 1925 and 1953 as a series of separate gifts from Frederick H. Koch and the Carolina Playmakers.
Formerly Dewey 812H C227.
- Carolina Playmakers
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Department of Dramatic Art
- Carolina Dramatic Association
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Siel Agugliaro
- Finding Aid Date
- 2017 October 4
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.