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Dramatics records

Identifier: CA-MS-00026

Scope and Contents

The Dramatics files consist of programs, photographs, press releases, articles, notes and prompt books relating to the student productions at Smith. These include all House Dramatics, Division of Dramatics, Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi, Theater Workshop, Dramatic Association and early Theater Department performances. Brackets around any title, date, or organization indicate an uncertain attribution due to ambiguities in the content of the file. Dramatics files are arranged in chronological order.


  • 1878 - 1960


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for use without restriction beyond the standard terms and conditions of Smith College Special Collections.

Conditions Governing Access

Until we move into New Neilson in early 2021, collections are stored in multiple locations and may take up to 48 hours to retrieve. Researchers are strongly encouraged to contact Special Collections ( at least a week in advance of any planned visits so that boxes may be retrieved for them in a timely manner.

Conditions Governing Use

Smith College retains copyright of materials created as part of its business operations; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For reproductions of materials that are governed by fair use as defined under U. S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. For instances which may regard materials in the collection not created by Smith College, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights and obtaining approval from them. Researchers do not need anything further from Smith College Special Collections to move forward with their use.

Biographical / Historical

The first dramatic productions at Smith were performed by members of societies in the individual student houses on campus. The first of these was formed by Hatfield House in January of 1878 and was named Alpha Society. Washburn and Hubbard Houses soon followed with Olla Podrida in the fall of 1878 and Tertium Quid in 1879, respectively. Houses also occasionally banded together into groups under one name. Sarm Ganok was the name for the Stoddard- Dewey-Hatfield Houses group, and was adapted from the Chinese words for "Three Houses." To these was added Senior Dramatics in 1883 as a feature of Commencement week, although not officially added to the program until 1887. In 1889 the various dramatic societies had achieved official recognition by the administration of the College and in 1891 it became customary for performances to be held in town at the newly-opened Academy of Music. In 1896, owing to the tremendous popularity of Alpha Society, a sister organization was formed, called Phi Kappa Psi, and by 1901 most of the academic departments were also putting on shows. By 1908 the number of productions had out-paced itself to such an extent as to require limitations. The house dramatic groups were dissolved and in their place a divisional system based on class year was instituted. Four new groups were thus formed, each giving one show per year. The groups were called Cap and Bells, Sock and Buskin, The Players and The Mummers. This system was in turn discarded in 1919 when Samuel A. Eliot, of the Department of English Language and Literature, developed the Dramatics Association to replace it and added a course in play production to the Spoken English curriculum. In 1927 even the Senior Dramatics were taken over and all productions were given through the Dramatics Association and the Theatre Workshop, as the performances by Eliot's students were called. That same year also marked the first year of an actor/actress exchange with Amherst College and an end to the tradition of all-female casts in Smith plays. The Department of Theatre was not formed until the 1942-43 academic year, at which time Hallie Flannagan was made its chair. Seven years later, due to flagging student interest and lack of funds, the Dramatics Association voted to merge with the theatre department. All productions thereafter were produced by the department.


9.104 linear feet (20 containers)


Records consist of programs, photographs, press releases, articles, notes and prompt books relating to student productions at Smith between the years 1878 and 1949. These include all House Dramatics, Division of Dramatics, Alpha-Phi Kappa Psi, Theater Workshop, Dramatic Association and early Theater Department performances.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

No true provenance is known for the Dramatics records. Most likely they were transferred to the Archives from a number of possible sources including the Department of Theatre, the Dramatics Association and by alumnae donation.

Related Material

For the early productions of the Theater Department, one should also consult the departmental production files, which are more complete. Senior Dramatics files are kept with the records of that class, departmental productions with the records of the department and faculty shows are filed with the faculty records.

Processing Information

Processed by Elizabeth Kates

Processing Information

Please note that prior to 2018, folder inventories were not always updated when new material was added to the collection. As a result, folder inventories may not be complete and folder numbers may be incorrect.


Finding aid to the Dramatics records
Legacy Finding Aid (Updated)
Elizabeth Kates
© 2003
Description rules
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Encoding funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Revision Statements

  • 07/26/2017: This resource was modified by the ArchivesSpace Preprocessor developed by the Harvard Library (
  • 2005-09-23: manosca26 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02-5c.xsl (sy2003-10-15).
  • 2018-11-12: Updated to conform to DACS and added boxes
  • 2019-11-21: Added box 1

Repository Details

Part of the Smith College Archives Repository

Young Library
4 Tyler Drive
Northampton MA 01063