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Drama Department Records

Identifier: MS-0357

Scope and Contents

The Drama Department Records (1914-2011) document the history, development, and current activity of San Diego State University's Drama Department, now named the School of Theatre, Television and Film, with an emphasis on the department’s numerous yearly dramatic productions. These files highlight the department’s evolution from a small program with one small theater, to a large, independent department, capable of staging large-scale professional plays. Particularly noteworthy are the numerous production photographs, which document the sometimes understated and other times intricate stage and costume designs of the department’s many performances. The majority of the materials date from the late 1950s to the 1990s, with only a few items dating as early as 1914. The collection includes photographs, box office receipts, mailing lists, promotional materials, departmental curricula, correspondence, posters, office memoranda, building specifications, programs, slides, and production files.  The collection is divided into four series: Administrative Files (1923-2006), Production Files (1914-2011), Production and Departmental Slides (1947-1981), and Department Exhibits (1995-2000).

The Administrative Files document the activities and operation of the academic department as well as the campus theaters used for dramatic productions. This series primarily dates from the 1960s to the 1990s and includes news clippings, correspondence, brochures, budget information, building specifications, receipts, mailing lists, photographs, and memorandums. This series heavily documents outreach and promotional stratagems for productions through the use of group sales, mailing lists, and press releases.  The series is divided into six sub-series. The Office Files (1923-2006) are arranged alphabetically and document the day-to-day operations of the department. These files include correspondence, non-production-related photographs, flyers, faculty and staff information, curriculum files, clippings, research files, press, and surveys. The Guest Artists (1980-1986) and Notable Alumni (1961-1987) sub-series document the careers and SDSU performances of notable alumni and guest artists, including Marion Ross, Ray Bradbury, and Desi Arnaz.  Most of the files include photographs and news clippings. These files sometimes only provide scant information on a particular artist, and primarily date from the 1980s. The files are arranged alphabetically by the artist's last name.  The Facilities (1953-1971) sub-series provides extensive information on the building of the Don Powell Theatre during the 1960s and includes building specifications, equipment and furnishing information, memorandums, blueprints, and correspondence. The Season Files (1960-2003) document the promotional efforts for each production season primarily between 1960 and 2000. Finally, the Box Office and Group Sales (1976-1998) sub-series include group sale forms, box office receipts, and local school and community group information. These files document the presence of numerous groups at various SDSU productions, and help gauge the success of a particular promotional campaign.

The Production Files (1914-2011) make up the largest of the collection's series and document the planning, staging, publicity, and performance of the majority of the department's dramatic and operatic productions. Although these files date from 1914, the bulk of material spans 1950s to the early 2000s. Earlier production files may only contain a program or a few photographs, while later production files may contain a greater variety of production material, including publicity information and reviews. Of particular interest are the production posters, located towards the end of the series that date from the 1960s to the 1990s as well as the hand-drawn and painted costume sketches with fabric swatches from The Rivals.  These items provide evidence for the expansion of the department and its performances. The photographs similarly help highlight the number of performances as well as the scope and professionalism of the productions. Arranged chronologically by year of performance, this series includes photographs and negatives of performances and sets, press releases, programs, reviews, promotional materials, stage directions, scripts, cast information, and DVDs of more recent productions. The end of the series contains several folders of unidentified production photographs and negatives as well as oversized photographs and posters.

The Production and Departmental Slides (1947-1981) consists of slides, arranged chronologically by year. Within the folder, slides are sometimes identified by production title. Unidentified slides are located at the end of the series. This series contains a few slides of departmental events and people, but the vast majority heavily document the department’s numerous yearly productions.

The Departmental Exhibits series (1995-2000) documents several small-scale exhibits that were probably on display either in the department or theater. This minor series consists of scanned copies of photographs or drawings of productions, set designs, or costumes mounted onto foam board. Some, but not all, images have accompanying identification tags.


  • Creation: 1914-2011
  • Creation: Majority of material found in 1950-1999


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The copyright interests in some or all of these materials have not been transferred to San Diego State University. Copyright resides with the creator(s) of materials contained in the collection or their heirs. The nature of archival collections is such that multiple creators are often applicable and copyright status may be difficult or even impossible to determine. In any case, the user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, obtaining publication rights and copyright infringement. When requesting images from Special Collections & University Archives for publication, we require a signed agreement waiving San Diego State University of any liability in the event of a copyright violation.

Historical Note

Since San Diego State’s inception as the San Diego Normal School, the dramatic arts have always been an important part of the curriculum. Prior to the Second World War, the English Department administered all dramatic arts courses. After the war, however, with rapidly increasing enrollment, San Diego State created an independent Speech Arts Department. This new department offered a major and minor in Speech Arts, with a focus on the dramatic arts and speech communication. The comprehensive curriculum prepared students for careers in teaching as well as for careers in professional and community theater. The department offered courses and associate bachelor’s degrees in dramatic production and stage design as well. In 1965, construction began on the new Speech Arts building, which included facilities capable of staging complete operatic and dramatic performances. By the late 1960s, radio and television courses became a part of the curriculum as well.

In 1970, dramatic arts separated from speech communication to become the Drama Department under the College of Professional Studies. Students could now obtain bachelor and master’s degrees in drama with specializations in theater, television, and film. The department also became a member of the National Association of Schools of Theatre. During the 1998-1999 academic year, the department was renamed the Theatre Department and television and film courses became part of the Communications Department. Five years later theatre, television, and film were once again reunited under the School of Theatre, Television and Film.

Today, the School provides education on the undergraduate and graduate levels for students seeking careers in all areas of live theatre and the moving arts, and fosters academic and creative interaction between established and emerging artists on campus and off. It provides its students with an understanding of the great legacy of dramatic literature, technical skills as they relate to public performance, training in critical thinking and the means to express themselves with clarity and grace. Each year, the School produces numerous dramatic productions, ranging from five to eight a year, to showcase SDSU talent and provide practical experience for its students.

Well known alumni include Gregory Peck, Art Linkletter, Cleavon Little, Marion Ross, and Carl Weathers.


51.13 Linear Feet

Language of Materials


Source of Acquisition

Department of Drama

Accruals and Additions

1989-025, 1994-006, 1995-005, 1996-003, 1997-005, 1998-014, 2002-047, 2006-044, 2002-022, 2006-060, 2007-015, 2008-033, 2008-038, 2008-042, 2009-006, 2009-053, 2009-065, 2010-015, 2011-019, 2011-058, 2009-059

Related Materials

Old Globe Theatre Photograph Collection

San Diego Union Performing Arts Department Records

Dr. Sue Earnest Papers

San Diego State University Historical Collection

Irving E. Outcalt Papers

Processing Information

Started by Ellen Jarosz in the 2000s, then partially processed in 2012 by Jennifer Hollander.  Finished by Amanda Lanthorne in 2013.

Drama Department Records
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections & University Archives Repository

5500 Campanile Dr. MC 8050
San Diego CA 92182-8050 US