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MS Thr 833

Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.). Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.) records, 1936-1989 (MS Thr 833): Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: Harvard Depository
Call No.: MS Thr 833
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.).
Title: Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.) records
Date(s): 1936-1989
Date(s): 1950-1960
Quantity: 9 linear feet (21 boxes [4 are portfolio-sized])
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Records of the Poets' Theatre of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

No accession number. Gift of many donors, see items for more details; received: 1962-2009.
This "archive" of the records of the Poets' Theatre was assembled at the Theatre Collection through a number of accessions accumulated over the years from those persons associated with the development of the theater. Primary gifts were received from:
  • Lyon Phelps, 1962 August 8.
  • Catharine Huntington, 1963 January.
  • Richard Eberhart, 1963 August 7.
  • Edward Albert Thommen, 1964.
  • William Morris Hunt, 1965 October 13.
  • Mrs. Donald Spencer, 1973.
  • Charles Ash, 1980.
  • Howard Gaarder, 1986.
  • Mrs. Robert A. Brooks, 1988 February 16.
  • 2009MT-9. Part of the Bradley Phillips Collection; gift of Sayre Phillips Sheldon, 2009 July 29.
  • Alan Fox.
  • Processing Information:

    Processed by : Bonnie B. Salt

    Conditions Governing Access:

    There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.
    A portion of this collection is not housed at the Houghton Library but is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.

    Preferred Citation for Publication :

    Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.) Records, 1936-1989 (MS Thr 833). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

    Separated Materials

    Removed from collection and sent to printed books:

    Biographical / Historical

    The Poets' Theatre was first established by a group of poets living in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the fall of 1950. Their objective was to revive poetic drama and generate work by poets who "would act, administrate, direct, and sell tickets, while retaining total control of their own writing." Members included Richard Eberhart, John Ciardi, Richard Wilbur, V. R. (Violet Ranney "Bunny") Lang, Hugh Amory, John Ashbery, Edward Gorey, Donald Hall, William Matchett, George Montgomery, Frank O'Hara, Lyon Phelps, and others. Except for V. R. Lang, they were all attending Harvard College, or had recently graduated from it. Other names associated with the theater were: Alison Lurie, Kenneth Koch, Mary Manning Howe, Catharine Huntington, Edward Albert Thommen, William Morris Hunt, and many others. In 1968 the theater building on Palmer Street burned down and the Poets' Theatre ended. In October of 1986, a celebration was held in the Agassiz Theatre in Cambridge to memorialize the Poets' Theatre, called by Edward Gorey, a nostalgic "wake."


    Arranged into the following series :

    Scope and Contents

    Includes organizational and business records, publicity and production materials, correspondence, and original scripts and designs related to the Poets' Theatre of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Also includes bylaws, cancelled bank checks, clippings, contracts, ephemera, financial reports, leases, licenses for entertainment, membership lists, minutes, photographs, posters, programs, realia, scrapbooks, sound recordings, theater construction plans, receipts, tax records, typescript of a taped discussion with Lyon Phelps and others, and much other material. Some papers are burned on the edges, apparently having been through a fire, probably the #24 Palmer Street fire of 1960.
    Some donors included theatrical material that did not directly relate to the Poets' Theatre. These materials have been grouped into "Series VIII. Other theatrical material." It should be noted that some of this "other" material concerns the Poet's Theatre of Harvard, which is a different organization from the Poets' Theatre (Cambridge, Mass.).


    This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. See access restrictions below for additional information.

    Container List