The following post was written by former student employee Samantha Koontz before she finished up her work with us at the end of last semester. This post accompanies the exhibit she created. Stop by Special Collections to view the exhibit!
In 1914 Fredrica Shattuck, head of Public Speaking at Iowa State, founded the Iowa State Players so that students could participate in public performances. She also founded “The Little Country Theatre” which performed at the Iowa State Fair from 1921 to 1926. She was instrumental in obtaining a laboratory theater workspace for students to practice and perform in. The Theater Workshop, formerly a campus sheep barn, served as the home of the Iowa State Players for many years. It was renamed Shattuck Theater in 1960. Shattuck relinquished her position as department head in 1931 but remained on as a teacher at Iowa State College.
As the years progressed, many department heads came and went, each bringing something new to the department. ISU Theatre has performed works by Shakespeare, musicals, comedies and student produced works. In the department’s early years, the Iowa State Players performed in Curtiss Hall Auditorium and The Theater Workshop, later renamed the Shattuck Theater. Throughout the years, students and professors alike have put their blood, sweat and tears into productions here at Iowa State in an effort to tell the best story they could. Currently the department pursues this with great vigor and performs their works in Fisher Theater along with the Student Produced Show in Pearson Hall.
Here at Special Collections there are many scrapbooks containing news clippings, photographs and playbills of productions for each season up in to the 1980s (see Kathryn Eames Papers, RS 13/23/52). These scrapbooks show how theater was done in the past and are great reminders of the history of the department. The archives also contain correspondence from Fredrica Shattuck, information on other faculty members of the department as well as playbills and information on the shows that were produced throughout the years (see Fredrica V. Shattuck Papers, RS 13/23/51 and the Theatre Production Records, RS 13/23/3). Two of the most performed shows here at Iowa State University are Our Town and Crimes of the Heart, each of which was performed 4 times. Crimes of the Heart just closed on the Fisher Theater stage in November 2014 after its 4th run.
This year, for the 100th anniversary of ISU Theatre, the season looks to highlight the past, present and future of ISU Theatre. They have selected shows they have performed in the past such as Crimes of the Heart, Love and Honor: Iowa in the Civil War and A Christmas Carol. To honor the present, shows that have never been performed here will hit Fisher Theater’s stage, including Les Miserables, On The Verge, and Spring Awakening. With the gala performance on November 15th, the department celebrated both its past and its future. Alumni and students came together to perform – showing people what theater has been with the alumni and what it will become with the current students.
To see more from the ISU Theatre Program Records, stop by Special Collections!