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Current Exhibition: "Making a People's Theatre:
Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers"

playmakers' tour bus

This photograph depicts the Playmakers in front of the US Capitol on one of the company's tours.

Exhibit: February 21 through May 31, 2014

In March 1919, the Carolina Playmakers produced its first bill of original plays. These folk dramas were based on the "simple lives and homely ways" of ordinary people in North Carolina. The group emerged from the vision of Frederick H. "Proff" Koch, a recent arrival from North Dakota. Under the direction of Koch and successive leaders, a new type of people’s theatre emerged -- one that would influence American drama for decades.

For more than five decades the Playmakers performed student-written and professional plays for audiences on campus and beyond, from small towns in North Carolina to cities across the U.S. Its success gave rise to a number of campus developments. Playmakers Theatre opened in 1925. The Department of Dramatic Art formed in 1936.

As audiences' taste changed over the years, so, too, did the Carolina Playmakers. Today, Playmakers Repertory Company is a professional theatre organization in residence at UNC.

This exhibition uses original documents, artifacts, and recordings to examine the group’s fifty-six year history and its legacy at UNC and on the national stage.


Event: Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Coates University History Lecture,
"A Model for Folk Theatre: The Carolina Playmakers"

In fall 1918 Professor Frederick Koch arrived at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to teach the school's first course in play writing. Working with the Carolina Playmakers, a group of students, faculty, and community people who performed the new plays, Koch defined the folk play as a new type of American drama. Koch's early students included Thomas Wolfe, Paul and Elizabeth Green, and Jonathan Daniels. This new type of drama celebrated the stories and people of a region and highlighted the struggles of everyday individuals against the forces of nature. Historian Cecelia Moore examines the Carolina Playmaker's influence on regional theater and college drama in the 1930s.

5:00 p.m.: Reception and viewing of Gallery exhibit

5:30 p.m.: Program, Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library