Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
INVENTORY OF THE FIREHOUSE THEATER COMPANY ARCHIVES, 1963-1974
D-064  
View entire collection guide What's This?
PDF (126.27 Kb) HTML
Search this collection
Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • History
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Related Collections
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: Firehouse Theater Company Archives,
    Date (inclusive): 1963-1974
    Collection number: D-064
    Creator: Firehouse Theater Company
    Extent: 4.7 linear feet
    Repository: University of California, Davis. General Library. Dept. of Special Collections.
    100 North West Quad
    Davis, California, 95616-5292
    Abstract: In the summer of 1963, University of Minnesota graduate student Marlow S. Hotchkiss, artist James F. Faber, actor John Shimek, and actor and director Charles Morrison III renovated an 1894 fire station in Minneapolis, Minnesota as the Firehouse Theater. The group conceived the theater as a venue for avant-garde drama and as a vehicle for new playwrights in the Twin Cities area. The company relocated to San Francisco in 1969. The Firehouse Theater Company Archives (1963-1974) includes scripts, scores, director's notes, posters, programs, photographic prints, films, workshop notebooks, reviews, correspondence, legal and financial documents, blueprints, and promotional material.
    Physical location: Researchers should contact Special Collections to request collections, as many are stored offsite.
    Language: English.

    Administrative Information

    Access

    Collection is open for research under regular Reading Room rules and copyright restrictions.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright is protected by the copyright law, chapter 17 of the U.S. Code. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of Special Collections. Permission for publication is given on behalf of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the researcher.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Firehouse Theater Company Archives, D-064, Department of Special Collections, General Library, University of California, Davis, California.

    Acquisition Information

    In 1974, Nancy Walter donated this collection to the Library. Additional material was donated in 1984 by Ms. Walter under her changed name, Norah Holmgren.

    Processing Information

    Lola Aguilar processed this collection and created its finding aid. Melissa Tyler encoded the finding aid.

    History

    Administrative History

    In the summer of 1963, University of Minnesota graduate student Marlow S. Hotchkiss, artist James F. Faber, actor John Shimek, and actor and director Charles Morrison III renovated an 1894 firestation in Minneapolis, Minnesota as the Firehouse Theater. The group conceived the theater as a venue for avant-garde drama and as a vehicle for new playwrights in the Twin Cities area. The Firehouse Theater Company's first play The Connection by Jack Gelber, opened on August 22, 1963. The evening included a post-play discussion between the audience and the cast and director, which became a regular feature of Firehouse Theater productions.
    The Firehouse Theater Company changed direction in 1965 with the departure of Shimek and Morrison. Marlow Hotchkiss, now managing director, brought on Sydney Schubert Walter, a member of the Open Theater in New York, as artistic director. The theater group reincorporated as a non-profit organization and acquired grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Hotchkiss and Walter also increased the number of original plays they produced and conducted workshops for the ensemble's personal development.
    American playwright Sam Shepard premiered his play Fourteen Hundred Thousand in 1966 at the Firehouse Theater. In the same year, the group also performed Open Theater playwright Megan Terry's new play, Viet Rock. In 1968, the Firehouse Theater Company premiered Terry's new play, Jack-Jack at the Firehouse Theater and in-house playwright Nancy Walter's first play, Rags. In addition to new plays, the Firehouse Theater Company continued presenting plays by Ionesco, Brecht, Beckett, and other Theater of the Absurd playwrights. Audience participation developed as part of the group's experimentation with acting as a shared discovery.
    After losing their lease at the old fire station in Minneapolis in 1969, the Firehouse Theater Company relocated to San Francisco, where they opened a theater on California Street at Polk and experimented with communal living. Their first season in San Francisco opened with Blessings on March 20, 1970.
    By 1974, many of the original Firehouse Theater group had left to pursue other interests. Sydney Walter returned to school to complete a doctorate in psychology. Marlow Hotchkiss decided to concentrate on films. He also moved out of the commune. Nancy Walter continued writing plays and books. The company's original group of actors also moved on. The Firehouse Theater Company no longer produced experimental works. Instead, they turned towards other styles of theatrical productions.
    Sources:
    Aronson, Arnold. Avant-garde Theatre: A History. London: Routledge, 2000.
    Schechner, Richard. "Six Axioms for Environmental Theatre." In The Drama Review: Thirty Years of Commentary on the Avant-garde, ed. Brooks McNamara and Jill Dolan, 151-171. Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1986.
    Shank, Theodore. American Alternative Theater. New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1982.
    Szilassy, Zoltan. American Theatre of the 1960s. Carbondale and Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois Press, 1986.
    Walsh, Richard. Radical Theatre in the Sixties and Seventies. Halifax, England: British Association for American Studies, 1993.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Firehouse Theater Company Archives is arranged in three series: 1. Plays, 2. Business Records, and 3. Memorabilia. Items span the years 1963 to 1974. The first series is devoted to plays performed by the Firehouse Theater Company and includes scripts, scores, director's notes, posters, programs, films, photographic prints, and reviews. Scripts and scores primarily relate to Firehouse Theater playwright-in-residence Nancy Walter's plays. Business records include general correspondence, grant proposals and related correspondence, legal documents, financial documents, building records, workshop material, and promotional material. Memorabilia includes a scrapbook and a manuscript.

    Related Collections

    Other materials related to Firehouse Theater Archives may be found in the following collections at Special Collections:
    D-055: Cole, Toby Archives
    D-187: Living Theater Archives
    D-061: San Francisco Mime Troupe Archives

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the Library's online access catalog:

    Subjects

    Firehouse Theater Company
    Faber, James F.
    Hotchkiss, Marlow
    Morrison, Charles
    Shimek, John
    Walter, Nancy, 1939-
    Walter, Sydney Schubert
    American Drama--20th century
    Dramatists
    Experimental theater
    Theater--Political aspects
    Theater of the absurd