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Washington Theater Club records

 Collection
Identifier: MS2061

Collection Scope and Content

This collection contains correspondence, scripts, resumes, programs, administrative records, financial documents, photographs, art work, and audio cassettes. The materials date from 1952-83. These records provide insight into many facets of theater management. There are extensive files of resumes for acting and support staff, of constant communication with Actors' Equity, League of Resident Theaters, and similar groups, materials related to funding and grant support, royalty negotiations, audition records, screening in large cities, and subscription and box office records. The collection also contains records related to the Board of Trustees.

Please note: the folder numbering is a mixture of an original numbering scheme and those a newer scheme designed by Special Collection staff. For this reason there may be times when the folder numbers may appear run consecutively. These numbers are simply used as a location guide and no material is missing and the material is in the correct order.

Hazel H. Wentworth, Executive Director and co-founder of the Washington Theater Club, donated these records in 1979.

Dates

  • 1952-1983

Restrictions on Access

Some records may be restricted.

Restrictions on Use

Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.

Historical or Biographical Note

The Washington Theater Club was formed in 1957 to fill a perceived cultural void; to present good drama, away from Broadway; to speak out in plays of consequence; to present new ideas, new forms, and quality theater, which could be enjoyed and performed without racial barriers. The initial days of the Washington Theater Club were financially complex. John Wentworth had acquired a carriage house at 1632 0 St. N.W. in Georgetown, which had the essential space for a small intimate theater, with possible expansion potential. Zoning required that any theater venture be designated a private club. Even with a heavy input of money, Wentworth could not finance a professional theater and the building. The Washington Drama Center was organized to rent the building and pay for alterations to convert the space to a theater; and thereafter to provide professional theater, a drama school, and other activities.

Theater Venture I and Theater Venture II were developed to solicit funding to finance productions in 1960 and 1961. The Dramatic Arts Society of the District of Columbia was created to conduct a school and to produce and sponsor theatrical productions as a non-profit corporation, eligible to receive foundation and community support. The Washington Theater Club functioned with these support groups from 1957 to 1963, when it was incorporated as a non-profit theater and could stand alone. The designation "club" was necessary because of zoning problems resulting from the Club's location in a residential neighborhood adjacent to a church. The theater was, in actual fact, open to all with payment of nominal dues of $1.00.

As evidence of its growing success, the Washington Theater Club acquired a second location at 23rd and L Streets, N.W., which opened in 1970. The records of the Washington Theater Club reflect the progress of a regional theater from a small intimate dramatic venture to a full-fledged, highly acclaimed professional dramatic force operating at two locations, capable of successfully launching plays which had failed on Broadway, and effective in introducing new productions, new playwrights, and new performers. So successful was the club under the direction of Davey Marlin-Jones, that on April 11, 1969, it became the first theater in Washington to win the coveted Margo Jones award for persistence in a continuing program of new play productions. Its accomplishments included the production of ten world premieres, four American premieres, thirty Washington premieres, and the introduction of sixty-four writers new to area audiences.

Programs developed for dark Monday nights included staged readings of new plays to test feasibility for full production. Other programs included concerts by the Theater Chamber Players, who later became resident at the Kennedy Center, separate series of jazz concerts, dance, mime, and international events, as well as a showcase gallery in the lobby. The existing drama school, begun under the direction of the Wentworths, continued as a club activity to provide training for all ages and interaction with professional performers and directors. Like the theater production staff, Hazel Wentworth was motivated to expand the influence of the school to the disadvantaged, with outreach to Anacostia, a joint grant with Bowie State College, in-service training for college students on the east coast, and touring theater in the public schools and parks.

Like other performing arts groups which flourished in the sixties but did not survive the seventies, the Theater Club came to an end in 1974. Despite cash flow difficulties and a reliance on modestly-paid and volunteer staff, the Washington Theater Club was noted for its expansion into new areas and dramatic excellence from its modest inception in a 142-seat theater space to its two-house status with more than 9,000 subscribers.

Extent

116 Linear Feet

Language

English

Abstract

Collection contains correspondence, scripts, resumes, programs, administrative records, financial documents, photographs, art work, and audio cassettes from the Washington Theater Club, which was formed in 1957 to fill a perceived cultural void; to present good drama, away from Broadway; to speak out in plays of consequence; to present new ideas, new forms, and quality theater, which could be enjoyed and performed without racial barriers.. The materials date from 1952-83.

Collection Organization

Organized into four series: Production files, Administrative files, General accounting, and Artwork, audio tapes, and record albums

Acquisition Information

Hazel H. Wentworth, Executive Director and co-founder of the Washington Theater Club, donated these records in 1979.
Title
Guide to the Washington Theater Club records, 1952-1983
Status
Completed
Author
Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Date
2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

Contact:
2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America