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University of Colorado Theatre and Dance collection

Identifier: COU:2562

Scope and Contents

The Theatre and Dance Collection includes a variety of materials, including:

I. History – A section devoted to the history of the Theatre and Dance Department. II. Subject files – This section contains various departmental files from the years 1929 to 1980, all alphabetized. III. Player’s Club – A section containing correspondence, meeting minutes, and other club documents. IV. USO Show to Far East, 1961 – Various records of the “USO Show to Far East,” comprise this section. V. Finances – This section includes financial records from 1921-1978. VI. Publicity – A section including Theatre and Dance publicity from 1959-1981. VII. Set Designs – “Little Women,” “Five at the George,” and “Saturday’s Children,” are only three of more than six plays whose set designs are described here. VIII. Scripts – The scripts to five of the plays the Theatre and Dance Department performed. IX. Programs ¬– This section includes multiple copies of many of the programs created and distributed by the Theatre and Dance Department, from the year 1897 to the year 1980. X. Miscellaneous – This section includes many miscellaneous items, including a few newspaper clippings and three photographs. XI. Photographs – A section devoted entirely to staff and the various plays put on by the Theatre and Dance Department. XII. Oversize – This section includes at least a dozen scrapbooks, along with maps of the Little Theatre and various posters of the Macky Auditorium and Little Theatre at the University of Colorado at Boulder campus. The maps of the Little Theatre are located in the map case downstairs (B-MC-3, second drawer).


  • 1897 - 1981

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for access.

Conditions Governing Use

Limited duplication of materials allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Historical Note

While student theatrical and dance performances at the University of Colorado predate the offering of classes, the first courses concerning theatre and dance were taught in the academic year 1924-1925 under the English Department, in the College of Arts and Sciences. During the decades in which theatre classes were conducted in the English Department, professors George Reynolds and Francis Wolle played a large role in promoting theatrical studies and performances. In 1970-1971, a new department within the College of Arts and Sciences was formed, the Department of Communication and Theatre. This new department took over the theatre classes from the English Department. The Theatre and Dance Department formed out of the Communication and Theatre Department in 1974. A letter to President Stearns, dated 1951, references the authorization and appointment of a Board of Dramatics by the Regents of the University of Colorado at Boulder in approximately 1925. This Board of Dramatics would later come to exist under the Department of Theatre and Dance.

Dance courses were first offered at the University of Colorado as part of the physical education program. These courses included such elements as rhythmic fundamentals, modern dance technique, international folk dance, and square and ballroom dance. With the introduction of modern dance into the curriculum in the early 1920's, a modern dance performing organization was developed. This group was organized and active under the name “Orchesis” after the University of Wisconsin model of the same name. The group presented a spring concert and appeared from time to time in other University theatrical productions. By 1946 there were enough dance courses being offered in the Department of Physical Education for women that a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Physical Education with emphasis in Dance was approved. With the introduction of this degree program, the quality of dance on campus began to improve and consequently the offerings of the student dance group were much more mature, more interested local audience. The choreography for these programs was primarily that of the teachers, with only an occasional solo, duet, or small group dance done by student choreographers. Ballet training was added to the course offerings and the University slowly began to change the curriculum. Some students even succeeded in dancing with artists like Jean Erdman and Pauline Koner. The administration of the College of Arts and Sciences failed to see dance as anything other than a physical activity. After considerable struggle between the Dance faculty and the College of Arts and Sciences, a Bachelor’s of Arts degree was approved in 1962. In the late 1940's and early 1950's students and faculty of the English Department, Physical Education, and the College of Music began to put on musical comedies presented in the summer.

Theatre took its position as an extracurricular activity, with such groups as the Players Club, the “Crown & Clown,” and the “Colorado Caravan.” Both troupes performed on such stages as the University Theatre, founded by George Reynolds in 1919 ; the Mary Rippon Theatre; and the Little Theatre. The Mary Rippon Theatre was created and funded by acquaintances of Ms. Rippon in February of 1936, with George Reynolds as the director. The Little Theatre was reestablished in the spring of 1920, and would later be housed in the newly remodeled old library, to be completed in January of 1940.

As summer and winter counterparts respectively, the “Crown & Clown” and the “Colorado Caravan” were both precursors to the curriculum that would eventually be offered under the new Department of Theatre and Dance in 1974. There were many influential professors and administrators that helped to keep these two troupes running, including Albert H. Nadeau, who was a professor and Chairman of the Department as well as Executive Director of the “Clown & Crown;” Francis Wolle, Chairman of the Board of Dramatics in the year 1951-1952; Martin Cobin, a professor; Marilyn Hetzel, who was Tour Manager of the “Crown & Clown” in 1976; and Daniel S.P. Yang, who was elected as the Director of Theatre in 1976. The “Colorado Caravan,” launched in the fall of 1972, was headed by Edgar Reynolds and Richard Knaub.

The Players Club was run entirely by undergraduate and graduate students, who elected a President, Vice President, and Secretary each year to be a part of the Board of Dramatics. Dr. Charles C. Ayer was “director of the first play presented by the Player’s Club of the University,” and also “served as chairman to the Board of Dramatics at the University for several years.”

Many changes would soon be taking place on campus. The Dance program was lucky enough to find space of its own outside the physical education facilities, and the Theatre program continued to practice and perform upon the many new stages on campus after having asked to move out of the Department of Communication and Theatre into its own department. In 1972 and after much discussion, the Dance faculty elected to pull out of Physical Education and join the theatre. The major stipulation of the move was that “Dance” should appear in the title of the department to indicate equal status. The resulting structure of this merger was to elect a chairperson of the entire department of Theatre and Dance every three years; to elect Academic Directors of Theatre and of Dance every 2 years; and to appoint a Production Director to supervise the publicity, scheduling, technical management, etc. for the entire department. The people in these positions could be re-elected any number of times. The merger also resulted in a move to another facility that worked well except for the fact that it was removed from the campus, St. Gertrude’s Academy on the Hill. Dance moved into the Academy Building in 1969, the first year Nancy Spanier was on the faculty. It was an old Catholic girls’ school and thus the chapel and gymnasium were converted to dance studios. There were faculty offices and one classroom called Room 36 in the basement. Though it was small, it did have the advantage of having a studio performing area in the Chapel. These facilities offered opportunities for performances by small traveling groups and for more studio concerts for the students which included the Choreolab productions and undergraduate and graduate concerts. In the academic year 1983-1984 a new dance wing was completed on the west side of the University Theatre Building. A Gala Concert to name the wing after Charlotte York Irey was held February 23-25, 1984. The Charlotte York Irey Studio/Theatre serves as the same capacity as the Chapel in the Academy Building. Classes are held daily and the space can covert into a 160-seat theatre with full technical support. In the late 1970’s the CU-Boulder Dance program co-sponsored and hosted the Boulder Dance Festival created and directed by Marda Kirn. In 1982 it became the Colorado Dance Festival (CDF) and CU-Boulder remained allied with CDF during its existence. The Festival offered their last event in 2000. In 1978 two former University of Colorado at Boulder students, Lara Branen and Michael Geiger, created the Boulder Jazz Dance Workshop. The University continues to host the workshop annually and awards credit for some of their courses. In 1995 CU-Boulder began accrediting the dance courses at Perry-Mansfield Performing Arts Camp in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. During the spring of 1991, the CU-Boulder Contemporary Dance Works (CUCDW) summer graduate student touring company was formed. The company members are paid to create a program and tour the state teaching classes and performing. CUCDW is part of the campus-wide “CU This Summer” program sponsored by the university President's office. In the late 1990s the group began to do residencies in one town rather than tour the state. CU hosted its first regional American College Dance Festival (ACDF) with 300 participants in the spring of 1995. Adjudicators were Donald McKayle, Hannah Kahn, and Marda Kirn. The University of Colorado hosted ACDF again in 2004 with Bill Young, Brenda Dixon-Gottschild and Fran Holend serving as adjudicators. Also in 1995, CU-Boulder Dance hosted the first Roser Visiting Artist by bringing Liz Lerman and two of the members of Dance Exchange to campus. Rebecca and James Roser endowed the existing financial support with matching funds from the University of Colorado at Boulder Chancellor at the time, James Corbridge. Many artists have come to campus to teach dance and set work to the students through this program: Dana Reitz, Sean Curran, David Dorfman, Joe Goode, Gabriel Masson, Bebe Miller with her full company, Susan Marshall and two company dancers, and Rennie Harris. Additional funding for Gabe Masson came from the National College Choreographic Initiative; additional funding was also provided for Bebe Miller’s company residency. Additional Roser artists Melissa McCorkle and Shelley Senter reconstructed Heretic by Martha Graham and Set and Reset by Trisha Brown, respectively, for the Legacies concert that opened the 2004 ACDF. In 2002, BFA Yuki Ojika’s work was invited to the National ACDF from the regional festival at University of Michigan. The University of Colorado at Boulder hosted the Central Region ACDF March 10-13, 2004, titled “Legacies, Dance in the 20th Century…and Beyond.” The opening night concert included Heretic and Set and Reset. Works by Onye Ozuzu and MFA Jennie Pitts were selected for Gala Concert and Ms. Pitt’s Pink Sink and Cotton Underwear was one of three dances selected to go the National ACDF in June, 2004. In 2006 MFA student Amy Slater’s solo “Exposed Layers” was invited to the National and Ms. Slater was the Central Region’s nominee for both best choreographer and best performer. In past years students Lynn Banka, Judy Bejarano and Steven Fetherhuff as well as faculty member David Capps were invited to the national ACDF.

The theatre component of this collection includes references to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival as well, which has become a tradition on the University of Colorado at Boulder campus, and still exists today. For more information, please see the James Sandoe Collection for copies of pamphlets. The Theatre and Dance Department still exists and operates today.


14.5 linear feet (23 boxes and 17 oversize items)

Language of Materials



The University of Colorado Theatre and Dance Department was established in the academic year 1974-1975, but theatre and dance activities had existed at the University as early as the 1920s. The collection consists of the historical files, newsletters, publicity materials, ticket samples, mailing lists, awards, finance records, newspaper clippings, scripts, programs, photographs, as wells as some oversize theatre posters from the University of Colorado Theatre and Dance Department. Also included are materials from the University Theatre, the Little Theatre, the Players Club, and the USO Show to Far East, all of which predated the department.













Preliminary Inventory Reformatted by: Genevieve Clark, June 19, 2007 Edited by: Ella Salvator, March 15, 2010
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States