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Yale Dramatic Association records

Call Number: RU 300

Scope and Contents

The papers in the Dramatic Association collection have been arranged to facilitate two kinds of research: research on specific productions of seasons, and research on the operation of the Dramat. Though most information that will inform one kind of research will also, to some extent, inform the other, most materials lend themselves better to one or the other category.

Materials that should help with production research include Dramat scrapbooks, organized chronologically from 1900 to 1954, excluding only the period 1904 to 1906; Dramat production files, organized alphabetically by play title; and the Dramat program file, which contains as complete a set of programs as could be assembled, organized chronologically by season. The scrapbooks (Boxes 1-16) will generally be more useful to the scholar interested in the first twenty-five years of Dramatic Association history than the show files, which are often sparse or nonexistent for those years. Show files (Boxes 17-23) exist for those productions for which unbound material could be obtained; while none of them contains all of the following items, each of them contains at least one: playscripts or prompt copies or the production book for the show, press releases or press clippings, publicity materials, production photos or slides, financial records or correspondence pertaining to the show, rehearsal schedules and production records such as prop lists, set designs, lighting plots or costume sketches, sheet music or special arrangements for productions that utilized music, cast lists, and director's notes. (Similar materials for shows produced before 1925 usually appear in the scrapbooks.) Programs for the shows have been stored separately, in Box 24. Any specific program can easily be found in the folder for the season in which it was used, but the folder listing for Box 24 is also useful either for reconstructing seasons or for locating a play for which there are no show files. Some programs are missing. Of these, some are on file in the Crawford Theatre Collection in Sterling Memorial Library, and when appropriate, a cross-reference to that effect appears in the folder listing. A list of missing programs appears in this register as Appendix I.

At the end of the show files are materials relating to Dramat sponsored Freshman One-Acts, and to shows and lectures presented under Dramat auspices. At the end of the Dramat program file are programs and other materials relating to productions of the Playcraftsmen.

Boxes 25-29 will be of greatest use to the scholar interested in the institutional history of the Dramatic Association. Most important in Box 25 are the minutes of the Dramat Executive and Advisory Boards and the records of the Playcraftsmen from 1922 to 1925. Boxes 26 and 27 contain Dramat financial records, but Box 26 also contains a Manager's Book, compiled in 1904-1905, that sheds invaluable light on early Dramat production methods. Box 28 contains miscellaneous scripts that were submitted (and often rejected) for production at various Dramat Festivals. Box 29 contains historical materials about the festivals.

In addition, Box 29 contains copies of most of the formal agreements between the Dramat and the University, information compiled by various Dramat historians, and what records the Dramat kept of the controversy surrounding the retention of Dramat coach Monty Woolley between 1925 and 1927.

The last several boxes in the collection contain primarily oversized photographs. Box 30 houses group pictures of the Dramatic Association membership for various years, and Box 31 holds oversized production photos.

Additional materials relating to the Yale Dramat can be found in other areas of Manuscripts and Archives, and, indeed, in other parts of the University. Duplicate programs, a series of Dramat-published souvenir playscripts, and additional photos of student plays can be found in the main reading room of Manuscripts and Archives. References to the Dramatic Association can be found in the appropriate files in the papers of Yale's President. The Crawford Theatre Collection, as has been noted, holds some Dramat programs otherwise unavailable. A collection of recordings of Dramat musicals is housed in Historical Sound Recordings, Sterling Memorial Library, and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library holds materials relating to the productions Cole Porter wrote for the Dramat and to those written for the Dramat by Richard Maltby and David Shire. The Yale Dramatic Association offices retain a collection of Dramat posters.

The Dramatic Association Papers are still a growing collection; the Dramat adds materials at the end of every school year. For information about activities after October, 1976, or financial records later than 1968, consult the Research Archivist.

For more information on the history of the Dramatic Association and the Playcraftsmen, see Terri Elaine Jones, "Undergraduate Drama at Yale" (B.A. Essay, Yale College, 1976), on file in Yale University Manuscripts and Archives. To put the Dramatic Association and the Playcraftsmen in the context of the history of Yale College from 1900 to 1937, the best source is Goerge Wilson Pierson's two-volume history of Yale College.


  • circa 1900-2004


Conditions Governing Access

While this collection as a whole is available for research, parts of it may be restricted due to law, university policy or fragility. Any restricted material will be noted as such.

Some records in this finding aid have been redacted, as they include student names, donor names, and other restricted data. These records will not appear in the published finding aid.


The materials are arranged as follows: I. Scrapbooks. II. Show Files. III. Programs. IV. Music and Lyrics. V. Administrative Files. VI. Financial Records. VII. Scripts Submitted (Festival). VIII. Yale Dramatic Association Festival Records and Dramat Organizational Material, 1903-1975. IX. Group Photographs. X. Production Photographs; and subsequent Accessions


93.42 Linear Feet (75 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The records consist of correspondence, financial records, set designs, scrapbooks, show files, programs, scripts, posters, and photographs documenting the administration and production of theatrical works by the Yale Dramatic Association.

Biographical / Historical

The Yale University Dramatic Association -"the Dramat"- was founded in the 1899-1900 school year at the instigation of Harry Westcott, Class of 1901, and with the help of William Lyon Phelps of the English Department. An undergraduate club, it was Yale's first organization to receive permission from the faculty to present plays in public on a regular basis. Originally, the Dramat's goals were "to study the drama, and once a year to produce a standard English play … of any dramatist who commands the respect of literary men"; but soon after 1900 the Dramat began not only to increase the number of plays it presented each year, but to expand its repertoire to include the masterworks of American and Continental drama. The Dramat's first production, 23 May 1900, was a double bill of the Second Shepherd's Play and a student adaptation of Chaucer's pardoner's Tale; since then it has produced, among other things, the American premieres of Ibsen's The Pretenders (1907), Gogol's Revizor (1908), Tolstoy's The Fruits of Culture (1912), Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (1916), Marlowe's Tamburlaine (1919), Euripides' Rhesus (1922), Galsworthy's The Roof (1930), Wilder's The Long Christmas Dinner (1931), Bulgakov's In the Days of the Turbins (1934), Camus' Caligula (1947), Anouilh's Colombe (1953), and, in 1967, the English language premiere of Eugène Ionesco's Hunger and Thirst. The Dramat has also encouraged the efforts of student playwrights. Cole Porter, Steven Vincent Benét, Thornton Wilder, and alumnus Phillip Barry all wrote for the Dramat.

Since its birth, the Dramat has been administered by a board of undergraduate directors who are more or less closely supervised by a faculty advisory board. Day-to-day operations have been overseen by a series of student managers, and artistic direction has been administered jointly by the student Executive Boards and directors they have hired. The Dramatic Association was incorporated in 1909, and, except for the last eighteen months of World War II, it has been in continuous operation since its founding.

Since 1926 the Dramatic Association has housed its productions and its administrative offices in the Yale University Theatre at 222 York Street. The theatre was the gift to Yale of Edward S. Harkness. The donation that built the theatre also created the Yale Department of Drama, now the Yale School of Drama, with which the Dramat has always shared the theatre. Before moving to the Yale University Theatre, the Dramat staged its New Haven productions on the Old Campus, in College Street Hall, in the Yale Bowl, at the New Haven Lawn Club and the Hotel Taft, and in the Hyperion and Shubert Theatres. Beginning in 1907, the Dramatic Association also toured many of its productions. The Dramat has also sponsored the New Haven presentations of various lecturers, theatrical companies, and other special performers. It has also occasionally collaborated with other schools to produce plays (with Vassar, in 1931, for example, and with Sarah Lawrence in 1937). From 1957 to 1974 it sponsored some seventeen Yale Festivals of Undergraduate Drama, playing host to theatre students from all over the United States and Canada.

Dramatic Association alumni have made names for themselves in many professions. Some who have made careers in the theatre and allied arts are Charles Hopkins, '07, Cole Porter, '13, Monty Woolley, '11, Donald Ogden Stewart, '16, John Hoysradt (Hoyt), '26, T. Edward Hambleton, '34, C. Bowen "Sonny" Tufts, '35, James Whitmore, '44, George Roy Hill, '43, Bradford Dillman, '51, James Franciscus, '54, Rex Robbins, '57, George White, '50, Dick Cavett, '58, Peter Hunt, '61, Sam Waterston, '62, Austin Pendleton, '61, John Conklin, '59, and Perry King, '70. Among the Dramat alumni who are famous in other fields are John Farrar, '18, and Chester Kerr, '36, both in publishing, Stewart and Joseph Alsop, '36 and '37, and August Heckscher, '36, all in journalism, S. Dillon Ripley, '36 and Robert Griffith, '36, museum administrators, diplomat William Bullitt, '12, chaplain T. Lawrason Riggs, '10, and academics Sylvan Barnet, '40, Merrill Knapp, '56, and A. Bartlett Giamatti, '60.

In 1922 a group called the Playcraftsmen was formed under the direction of Jack Randall Crawford of the Sheffield English faculty. The Playcraftsmen were intended to complement the Dramatic Association by developing new playwriting and technical talent. The two groups produced separately—though their memberships overlapped considerably—until 1929, when they merged under the Dramatic Association name. The Dramat Papers contain materials pertaining to the Playcraftsmen even before the merger.

Most of the material in the Yale Dramatic Association Archive was moved from the Dramatic Association offices in the University Theatre to Sterling Memorial Library in the summer of 1974, but some material, particularly the first three scrapbooks and the earliest administrative records, appears to have been donated to the library as early as 1911. Materials about the 1960 musical production of Tom Jones were donated by its authors, Austin Pendleton, Peter Bergman, Joseph Matthewson, and Robert Archer. The material from the Dramat had been allowed to accumulate in the University Theatre since 1926, and its condition suggests that it received only sporadic attention there. It is safe to assume that some materials were lost.

General note

Forms part of Yale Record Group 40 (YRG 40), Records of Yale clubs, societies, and organizations

Appendix 1:

  1. The following programs are not on file in the Yale Dramatic Association Papers in Manuscripts and Archives. Where indicated by an asterisk, copies may be found in the Crawford Theatre Collection in Sterling Memorial Library.
  2. The Magistrate(*) 1904-1905, (Apr)
  3. The Importance of Being Earnest(*) 1907-1908, Jan
  4. Robin of Sherwood(*) 1911-1912, Jun
  5. Twelfth Night 1920-1921, Jun
  6. L'Aiglon 1924-1925, Jun
  7. Out O'Luck 1926-1927, Oct
  8. And for Yale 1936-1937, 1936 Nov
  9. Button, Button 1946-1947
  10. Outward Bound 1950-1951, Oct
  11. The Live Wire 1950-1951, Mar
  12. Men Without Shadows(*) 1963-1964, Nov
  13. Richard III 1964-1965, Nov
  14. Death of Doctor Faust(*) 1965-1966, Nov
  15. Mister Roberts 1965-1966, Feb
  16. 3 Penny Opera(*) 1965-1966, Apr, Jun
  17. Shoemaker's Holiday(*) 1966-1967, Nov
  18. Waiting for Godot(*) 1966-1967, Feb-Mar?
  19. Hunger and Thirst(*) 1966-1967, Apr-Jun
  20. The Hostage(*) 1967-1968, Feb-Mar
  21. Twelfth Night 1967-1968, May
  22. Serjeant Musgrave's Dance(*) 1969-1970, Nov
  23. Him(*) 1969-1970, Mar
  24. Oh, What a Lovely War(*) 1970-1971, Nov 12-15 Dec 3-6
  25. Freshman One-Acts 1975

Processing Information

Yale University records are arranged and described at the accession level by the creating office. The University Archives creates collection level descriptive records, but typically does no further arrangement and description at the accession level

Guide to the Yale Dramatic Association Records
Under Revision
compiled by Manuscripts and Archives Staff
November 1985
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

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