January 31–July 1, 2011
Hidden Treasures of the Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw Collection on the Performing Arts drew from this extensive collection, housed in the Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing of the Hamon Arts Library, that included significant holdings in the history of theatre, film, music and dance. The McCord/Renshaw Collection originally began as the McCord Theatre Museum at Southern Methodist University in 1933 and was first located in Dallas Hall. It was founded by Department of Speech faculty members, including David Russell and Edyth Renshaw, and named in honor of Mary McCord, the first speech professor at SMU. While the museum succeeded in acquiring wonderful items throughout its 57 years as a separate entity on campus, a lack of funds and adequate staffing prevented a complete inventory from ever being completed. The collection was being processed at the time of the exhibit and many rare and important items had been discovered, the majority of which had never been exhibited. A number of these items were featured in the exhibition and concentrate on the collection’s noteworthy resources in the history of SMU and Dallas, as well as the performing arts. The exhibition was intended to showcase the holdings of the McCord/Renshaw Collection rather than attempt to document the full scope of the history of the performing arts.
The activities of an early student theater group provide a distinctive lens for viewing the history of SMU. Five years after its founding in 1911, SMU brought an additional dimension to theater in Dallas. Professor Mary McCord of the Speech Department directed the first theater production on campus, As You Like It, in conjunction with SMU’s first commencement exercises in 1916. The Arden Club was subsequently formed and was the only theater group on campus from 1916 through the 1960s, first under the direction of Mary McCord, then under her successor, Dr. Edyth Renshaw. Prominent Arden Club alumni include television producer Aaron Spelling and United States Senator John Tower. The city of Dallas itself has a strong history of performing arts, concurrent with that of SMU. In the early 20th century, Dallasites took in plays, light opera and vaudeville at theatres such as the Lake Cliff Casino in Oak Cliff and Cycle Park Theatre in Fair Park. By 1921, the little theatre movement (forerunner of community theater) had arrived in Dallas with the creation of the Little Theatre of Dallas. Until its closing in 1943, the Little Theatre of Dallas won national awards and often strived to include the city's local artists and playwrights in productions. Even events such as the State Fair of Texas also brought considerable talent to Dallas. Beginning in 1886 and through the transformation of the fairgrounds as the site of the 1936 Texas Centennial Exposition, the State Fair was intrinsically linked to the performing arts, as exemplified by the Cavalcade of Texas, the Centennial’s stage treatment of Texas’ past as a historical epic.
The treasures of the collection encompass a diverse cross-section of performing arts and represent the wide-ranging forms of theater, music, dance and film. The featured items from the art of theater exemplify a variety of theatre history from early 20th century Cairo to vaudeville performances in Central Park. Music is represented by items such as programs from the Weimar Opera House in Germany and Tin Pan Alley sheet music by Irving Berlin while dance is represented by the myriad Ballet Russe companies. In addition, the invention and popularity of film in the entertainment industry is characterized by unique items such as the envelopes from the 1951 Academy Awards. The performing arts also include lesser known styles of performance such as marionettes, masked theatre performances and even the Ice Capades, which are all showcased in the holdings of the McCord/Renshaw Collection.
Digitized items from the collection are available in the Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw Collection on the Performing Arts digital collection, a part of CUL's Digital Collections.
The Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing houses many archival collections concentrating on the visual and performing arts, especially in the American Southwest. Holdings include photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, art exhibit catalogs, sketches, lithographs, slides, theater programs, playbills, scripts, set designs, movie stills and posters and manuscripts. These collections document the careers and interests of such figures as artists Jerry Bywaters, Otis and Velma Davis Dozier, DeForrest Judd, William Lester, Octavio Medellin, and Janet Turner; actress Greer Garson and musicians Paul and Viola van Katwijk. Other collections include the McCord/Renshaw Collection on the Performing Arts, and the Henry Potter Collection, which documents the work of Potter Metal Studio in Dallas.
Researchers visiting The Jerry Bywaters Special Collections Wing are requested to make appointments in advance so that the required materials can be assembled and the appropriate curator made available.