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Thyrsus Collection

Identifier: WUA-05-wua00191

This collection is comprised of texts of plays, programs, announcements photographs, reviews, and general office correspondence. For additional Washington University theatrical materials, you may wish to consult the following collections held in Washington University Archives: The Department of English Student Plays, The Papers of W.G.B. Carson, and the Papers of Mary Wickes. Additional papers from W.G.B. Carson may be found in the Washington University Department of Special Collections, Manuscript Division.


  • Creation: 1895-2018


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


4.75 Linear Feet

12 Boxes

Historical Information

Thyrsus, the Dramatic Club of Washington University is one of the oldest organizations of its kind west of the Mississippi. Before the University moved to its present site at the beginning of the second semester in 1905, more or less sporadic dramatic performances had been given, but after the move a definite group was formed and given it’s present name in honor of Dionysus, the tutelary deity of drama in ancient Greece, who was supposed to have carried a staff or “thyrsus” ornamented with pine cones and vine.

The sympathetic authorities assigned the club its use a classroom in Cupples II in which cramped quarters it remained until the close of the First World War, when it moved to an abandoned YMCA hut. The so-called “monthly plays’ were given in the Thyrsus Theatre, but an “annual” was presented early in the second semester in the great Odeon on North Grand Avenue.

After two or three years in the old hut, plays were presented in January Hall until 1935 when Brown Hall was completed and the stage there was built expressly for the use of the organization.

In 1925-26 a rival organization of Thespians made its appearance on the campus and took the name Little Theatre. The two groups functioned separately until 1931, when a merger was effected and the combined groups were known as Thyrsus-Little Theatre.  In 1932 “Little Theatre” was dropped from the name, and Thyrsus again exists unchallenged as the dramatic organization of Washington University, sponsored by the Department of English.

In its years at Washington University there have emerged through Thyrsus such names as Fannie Hurst, Morris Carnovsky, Marvin Miller, Mary Wicks and William Inge. In 1958 Thyrsus received the Chancellor’s Award for the most outstanding organization on campus.

Thyrsus’ aim as the producer of the major campus dramatic activity, in coordination with the Division of Drama and the English Department, is to provide the best possible dramatic experience for the audience while at the same time providing the best possible training for the student of the theatre. Thyrsus includes playwrights, scene designers, producers, and actors. Membership in Thyrsus is by election on the basis of talent, number of hours spent on theatrical activity, and interest in the organization.

Method of Acquisition

This material was donated to University Archives.

Accruals and Additions

Accurals are interfiled within the collection.

Processing Information

Processed by Jay Kempen and Sarah Pabarcus in November 2005. Updated by Sarah Gabriel in August 2016. Updated by Sarah Schnuriger in March 2017 and January 2019.

Thyrsus Collection
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 May 19: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the University Archives Collecting Area

Sonya Rooney
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495