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A Finding Aid for the Ferris State Theatre Records 1932-1994

Collection Summary

Collection Title: Ferris State Theatre Records

Creator: Ferris State University. Ferris State Theatre.

Dates: 1932-1994

Abstract: Theatre activities were a part of university programming from the early part of the century. Plays were directed by a faculty member and casts included staff, students and community members. Records include programs, historical information and limited publicity.

Language: English

Quantity: 0.4 cubic feet; 1 Hollinger box

Identification: UA 33.75.1

Repository: Ferris State University Archives and Records Management Program

Historical Note

The 1934 Ferris Institute catalog notes that "dramatic arts is a combination of classwork and student activity. A number of one act plays have delighted the assemblies during the year. A variety of public appearances are provided for the casts of the play and some more ambitious drama projects are undertaken from time to time." Theatre already had a long history at the institution. The first record of Ferris theatre performance was a minstrel show produced in February 1912.

A dramatic club was formed in 1931 and chose the name of Harlequin Club. Performances of the Harlequin Club, an organization sponsored by Ivan Cole (the faculty member in charge of publications) occurred in the Alumni Gymnasium. It was also known as the Ferris Little Theatre. In 1946, Heddy Rossi reorganized the group into the Ferris Playhouse and used it as venue for her own work. In 1946, the FI Playhouse premiered the play Vienna Legends (a performance reprise for their 10 year anniversary.) The Kappa Eta chapter of the national drama honor fraternity Alpha Psi Omega was also formed. Additionally, the Playhouse worked closely with Fred Buck, director of the drama club at Central Michigan College of Education.

Rossi retired in 1958, and Dr. Lyle B. Mayer, a professor in Humanities, took over the Playhouse. The playhouse moved that season into the Rankin Center Dome Room. Their opening performance was Teahouse of the August Moon. The Playhouse settled into a pattern of three shows per year. This pattern continued as the playhouse moved into the newly built Starr Auditorium four years later. Their first performance in Starr was A Midsummer Night's Dream. Mayer continued to serve as Playhouse director until 1980.

Bill Sakalauskas, also a Humanities professor, served as director from 1980-1998. The Playhouse was renamed Ferris State Theatre. They continue to perform three shows per year in Starr Auditorium. Casts still include Ferris staff and community members.

Scope and Content Note

When Heddy Rossi came to Ferris in 1942 with her husband, she revitalized and formalized a long standing dramatic tradition at Ferris Institute. Most of the materials in this collection are from the tenure of Heddy Rossi (1946-1958) and the earliest years of Lyle Mayer (1958-1980). While no official history of theatre activities at Ferris has been written, Lyle Mayer in 1978 compiled a bibliography of articles about the subject which has appeared in Ferris publications. This list was updated by archivist Larry Martin in the early nineties who also created a preliminary list of all plays performed by the group from 1958-1982.

The records consist primarily of programs from the 1946-1965 period. Programs sometimes include biographical sketches of cast members- some of whom are Ferris staff and students, and some of whom are local community members. In addition to the programs is a single folder with a few publicity posters which relate to some of the more recent productions. There are no correspondence files or materials about the activities of the various directors.

Also of interest is a student group newsletter from 1947-48 for the organization which later became the drama fraternity Alpha Psi Omega.


The papers are contained in a single series.

Access Information

Conditions of Access

The Ferris State Theatre Records are open for research to all users in accordance with University Archives and Records Management access policies. It is available in the reading room of the Ferris State University Archives.

Conditions of Use

Requests for permission to publish material should be directed to the University Archivist. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Copyright interests for this collection have been transferred to Ferris State University. For more information, contact the University Archivist.

Subject Headings

Below are a list of names, organizations and subjects relating to the collection. Names have been taken from Library of Congress Authority headings whenever possible.

Related Materials

Heddy Rossi Papers (UA 24.10.50)

Scrapbook. FI Playhouse. January 1948-April 1950. Scrapbook Collection.

Administrative Information


Footnotes and bibliographic references should use the following format:
[Item], Folder, Box. Ferris State Theatre Records. Ferris State University Archives. Big Rapids, Michigan.

Provenance (Acquisition Information)

The Ferris State Theatre Records were located in various parts of the Ferris State University campus before 2002.

Processing Information

The Ferris State Theatre Records were processed to the folder level by Melinda McMartin Isler in March 2004. A finding aid was prepared in a word processing format and converted to EAD 1.0. A revised finding aid was created in January 2008. A collection level MARC-format record was prepared and placed in the library online public access catalog. Description was based on Describing Archives: A Content Standard (Chicago: Society of American Archivists, 2004).

Separated Materials

During processing, duplicate materials were discarded. There were no other materials placed in other collections.

Technical Requirements

This collection consists of paper based materials and photographic prints. No specialized hardware or software is required for viewing.

Content Listing

Series 1. General Files. 1932-1994.

This series consists of approximately 0.4 cubic feet of paper records. The majority of the collection consists of programs of the early years of the Ferris Playhouse. Other records include cooperative ventures with other Michigan colleges.

The records are arranged alphabetically by subject, and chronologically within folders.

Box Folder Contents
1 1 Alma College (Alma, Mich.) Drama Club. 1951.
1 2 Central Michigan College of Education. (Mt. Pleasant, Mich.) Department of Speech and Drama. 1951.
1 3 Ferris Playhouse membership card. Undated.
1 4 Ferris Playhouse membership lists. 1946-1957.
1 5 Ferriscope photographs. 1952-1957.
1 6 Harlequin Club. Publicity card. 1932.
1 7 Kampus Kapers. 1951.
1 8 Mayer, Lyle B. Bibliography on the history of theatre activities. 1978; 1991; undated.
1 9 Play list. 1958-1982.
1 10 Posters; publicity. Undated.
1 11 Programs. 1945-1946 to 1949-1950.
1 12 Programs. 1950-1951 to 1954-1955.
1 13 Programs. 1955-1956 to 1959-1960.
1 14 Programs. 1960-1961 to 1964-1965.
1 15 Programs. 1982-1983 to 1993-1994; scattered.
1 16 Programs. Undated.
1 17 Prompter. Newsletter. 1947-1948.