This collection consists of the records of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre which was founded in 1963 and includes material related to over 600 outdoor theatres, some of which began operation in the 1920s. Included are play scripts, correspondence, clippings, publicity material, video and audio recordings, feasibility studies, publications, reel-to-reel tapes, 35 mm slides, blueprints, and audition-related materials. This collection is being processed with the support of a National Historical Publications and Records Commission grant.
The Institute of Outdoor Theatre has more than 50 years of history. The first attempt to establish an institute for outdoor theatre dates back to 1955, with efforts being led by Kermit Hunter and W. Ney Evans, a commissioner for the US Court of Claims. These efforts did not come to fruition for another seven years, with the Institute for Outdoor Drama officially opening its doors on 1 January 1963 at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. Harry Davis, the director of the Carolina Playmakers, and Paul Green, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright, led the efforts to establish the Institute and received support from North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford. The Institute was founded as a research and advisory agency sponsored by the Carolina Playmakers and the Department of Dramatic Art, both at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill. In the mid-1960s, the Institute adopted the notion of being an "educating service," in that in order to educate others, the Institute must also be constantly educated. It did so through embracing outdoor dramas across the United States and advocating for the creation of new dramas by conducting feasibility studies and encouraging the development of new plays. This mission continues, but has expanded to include all kinds of outdoor theatre, holding conferences, compiling directories, member forums, awards, and other programs aimed at networking in the field.
In 2009, the Institute was given the news it would no longer have a home at the University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill. The Institute could maintain its trust fund monies, provided it could find a new administrative home in Chapel Hill. The director, business manager, former directors, as well as board and council members worked together to find a new home for the Institute. The University permitted the Institute to remain for one more year, but with no financial assistance. The Institute found its new home in Greenville, North Carolina at East Carolina University beginning August 2010. In 2014, the Institute of Outdoor Drama changed its name to the Institute of Outdoor Theatre.
The Institute of Outdoor Theatre Archives includes play scripts, correspondence, clippings, publicity material, souvenir programs, photographs, video and audio recordings, blueprints, and posters for more than 600 outdoor theatres. Materials relating to specific theatres or companies makes up about half of the collection.
The other half of the collection is comprised of materials the Institute of Outdoor Theatre created or utilized including bulletins, annual reports, correspondence, feasibility studies, planning groups, audition-related materials and director files. Additionally, there are materials that belonged to Frank Lewin, a composer who worked on several outdoor productions.
The collection is arranged into eight series: states and international, administrative, consulting, publications and reports, reference, audio-visual, Frank Lewin papers, and oversized materials.
Four series added later to the collection pertain to outdoor dramas (more souvenir programs and some photographs), Mark Sumner (Director for the Institute of Outdoor Drama at UNC Chapel Hill from 1964-1990), National Outdoor Drama auditions, and the Paul Green Foundation. Mark Sumner's papers contain interviews, speeches, articles by Sumner, and material related to the Mark Sumner Award. The National Outdoor Drama auditions material includes rosters and programs for 2006 to 2016 with some notices going back as far as 1995, and documents relating to expenses, the names of companies present, and schedules. Material donated by the Paul Green Foundation includes souvenir programs, songbooks, script books, and collector booklets related to Green's outdoor symphonic dramas.
Donated by Dr. Michael C. Hardy, Director of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre
Donated by Susan D. Phillips, Institute of Outdoor Theatre
Processed by Kaitlin Clothier, Jeff O'Neill, and Ashley Williams, 2015.
Additional processing by Robert Hines, 2017.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.