A Gray City Playbill: Student Theatre at The University of Chicago, 1895-1950

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This exhibit of programs, photographs, and scripts from 55 years of student productions narrates the history of dramatic satire at the University. Beginning with the Dramatic Club, the University's first theater group, founded in 1895, the exhibit traces the development of the University's famous student theater. This history was launched with satiric laughter. The two earliest student dramatic productions, "Washington's Birthday Souvenir" mocking the founder of the University, and "The New Cosmology" portraying prominent faculty members in the guise of Greek gods, were so warmly received that in 1985 steps were taken form the Dramatic Club, the University's first theater group. Musical comedy made its debut on the Quadrangles in 1899 with "The Deceitful Dean," a buoyant performance featuring such familiar characters as Registrar A. Bloodsucker, Examiner Lawrence Lowmarker, and Tabitha Teachem, the dour head of Mary Jane house. In 1903, the Blackfriars was formed as an all-male theater organization. After their first performance "The Passing of Pali Kahn"-a satire of the Department of Political Economy-the Blackfriars quickly became an annual tradition, with productions continuing through the twenties. The University women, not to be outdone, formed their own theater group, the Mirror, which was noted for satiric and gaudy chorus line numbers. This exhibit celebrates the opening of the Court Theatre on the campus of the University of Chicago.