Skip to main content

Collection on the University of Minnesota Theatre

Identifier: M/A 0280

Description of Contents

The University of Minnesota Theatre Collection consists of four boxes. The first box includes folders of newsletters, season brochures, advertisements, clippings, and miscellaneous records. The second box also contains newspaper clippings and miscellaneous materials, as well as press releases and a list of produced plays. Boxes 3 and 4 including performance programs from the University Theater and Centennial Showboat.


  • Creation: 1883 - 2006



The collection is available for use in Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library during the department's open hours.


The first group on the University of Minnesota campus to perform plays was Delta Sigma, organized in 1867. A debate group, Delta Sigma put on a play or musical once or twice every year. Many other student groups also put on theatrical performances, like the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority, who performed a play in 1892 during which the stage caught fire and performers and attendees were forced to leave. It is noted that in 1893 a dramatic club formed with 24 members, but there is little known about this club. In 1896, an official University Dramatic Club became the first real dramatic club on campus.

Theatre classes were offered at the University starting in 1909. Only students taking a theatre class and in the Dramatic Club could get credit. In 1910, the Dramatic Club changed its name to "The Masquers." George Norton Northrup started an all-male dramatic club called "The Garrick Club" in 1912, and in 1914, they changed their name to the Agricultural Dramatic Club. In 1919, Miss Ariel McNaughton was appointed as the University's first full-time director of dramatics.

In 1922, the new music auditorium, Scott Hall, was opened, and the drama clubs finally had a place to put on their performances. By 1924, seven different dramatic clubs existed at the University, but by 1930, the University was back down to four theatre clubs. In the early 1930s, Director of Dramatics A. Dale Riley combined the Masquers, Garrick Club, and National Collegiate Players to make the "University Theatre.”

In 1940, plans for a $500,000 theater were drawn up. The building was to have three floors, plus a basement for classrooms and lecture halls. World War II put a hold on all new building plans, but as the war ended the plans were resurrected. The push for the new building took front seat in 1953 with the publishing of the book, A Circle of Vision, which talked about the vision of the theatre program at the University. The projected cost of the new building had risen to $722,000. In 1959, Elmer Edgar Stoll, a strong supporter of the Theatre, died and bequeathed to the university the money to build a new theatre building. In January 1971, ground was finally broken for the new building, which would house four theatres, classrooms, scene and costume shops, offices, and television and radio studios. In 1973, the final season was held in Scott Hall, and the Rarig Center opened in time for the 1973-1974 seasons.

In addition to the Rarig Center, the University Theater staged productions for decades on the Minnesota Centennial Showboat. Christened in 1958 in conjunction with the state’s centennial, the showboat featured student productions, with an emphasis on melodrama and vaudeville. Originally performing at multiple cities along the Mississippi, the boat was permanently docked in the Twin Cities beginning in 1969. After a fire in 2001, a new showboat was constructed. Due to budget reallocations, the showboat held its final production in 2016.

Not long after the showboat’s debut, the opening of the Guthrie Theater in 1963 brought big changes to the University Theater. The University partnered with the Guthrie and sent 12 students per year to the theater for internships. In the early 1980s, the relationship between the Guthrie and the University were revitalized. The Guthrie offered internships to fifty percent of graduating students in the arts program, and Guthrie actors often held workshops with the students.


1.75 Linear Feet (4 boxes)

Language of Materials


Collection on the University of Minnesota Theatre
October 2012
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Hennepin County Library Special Collections Repository

Minneapolis Central Library
300 Nicollet Mall
Minneapolis MN 55401 U.S.A.