At many universities, athletics was said to unite the student body, but at Washington before the First World War, dramatics came closest to filling that role ... With no more than occasional help from faculty members, usually in the English Department, and a few theater buffs in the city, students made Washington University the busiest center of theatrical activity in St. Louis

--Ralph Morrow, Washington University in St. Louis: A History, p.242.

In Curtain Time, the story of student performing arts at the University is told through programs, music scores, photographs, sound recordings, video, and artifacts from the University's historical record.

Thyrsus and Quadrangle Club, both drama organizations, have been responsible for many of the performing arts activities on campus. Both groups were founded around the turn of the century and lasted until the early 1960s, and were in their heyday in the years prior to the First World War. Thyrsus' monthly programs of one-acts, the Thyrsus annual plays, and the annual Quad Show musicals involved casts as large as several hundred and brought in the talents of students from all departments of the University. In addition to drama, many students have involved in groups such as the men's and women's glee clubs, band, and the Chapel Choir. The level of student participation in performing arts is especially remarkable considering that the peak years of many of these organizations came well before the establishment of either a music department (formed in 1947) or a drama department (formed in 1972) at the University.

The limits of our exhibit space prevent us from covering every production and every concert. In Curtain Time, we pay special tribute to the Washington University students who have gone on to achieve lasting notoriety in the performing arts or in literature, all of whom participated in W.U. student theater, either as an actor or a writer: Fannie Hurst, Morris Carnovsky, Mary Wickes, Tennessee Williams, Ed (Shepherd) Mead, and A.E. Hotchner. Today's a cappella vocal groups are also featured, as are ensembles sponsored by the Music Department.

We hope the timeline which follows will give today's students a glimpse of the flourishing performing arts culture which has existed in the past at Washington University, and which still exists today. Excerpts from alumni magazine articles, yearbooks, and Student Life have been included, so that the story could be told by the students themselves whenever possible.

About the online version of Curtain Time

This hypertext version of Curtain Time marks the University Archives' first venture into online exhibits. The two versions of the exhibit are similar, but not identical. The multi-media component of the physical exhibit (sound recordings and video) has been left out of the online version for technical reasons. However, visitors to the online version will find additional textual material which could not, for space reasons, fit into the physical exhibit. We welcome your comments about both the physical exhibit and its online counterpart.

Enjoy the show!

[Overture] [Act1] [Act 2] [Act 3] [Featured Players] [Curtain Call]

This online exhibit "Curtain Time" was created in 1997, and is hosted by University Archives,
Department of Special Collections, Washington University Libraries. Please contact us with any questions.

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