Just to underscore how completely surprising life in the archives can be, here’s this. Someone brought in a box of materials related to the Faculty Women’s Club just before the holidays and we were looking through them this morning. The Faculty Women’s Club has been around pretty much from the beginning of Rice, its membership consisting of the wives of the then almost entirely male faculty. We already have a decent collection of their materials and they are a treasure trove of information about the rich and varied social life that the adults on campus enjoyed for many years. There was something new and unexpected in this batch–records from the Faculty Play Reading Group. From what I can tell, it existed from at least 1965 to roughly 1978. Four or five times a year they would select a play, have one of the members cast it, then gather to read it aloud at someone’s house. The plays they chose tended to be fairly current (but not always–they did Aristophanes once) and intellectually challenging. They really did branch out pretty far and wide. I was pleased to see that in 1977 they did one of my favorites, Synge’s “Playboy of the Western World.” And in 1973 they read two short plays by the Polish writer Slawomir Mrozek, “The Martyrdom of Peter Olney” and “Out at Sea.” And there were some inspired, even impish bits of casting. I can’t help but smile thinking of Frank Vandiver as Polonius.
These pictures fell from between some of the programs. They were taken on March 20, 1970, I believe at Franz and Frances Brotzen’s house on Overbrook. Read that night was Heinar Kipphardt’s “In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer,”a drama based on the records of Oppenheimer’s 1954 Atomic Energy Commission security review.
I immediately recognize some of the people there–John and Mary Lou Margrave, the Brotzens, of course, including (I think) young Franz in the doorway. My favorite is the impossibly beautiful Mary McIntire, who must have been a grad student then, but who went on to fame and fortune as Rice’s Dean of Continuing Studies. Between these wonderful people, the interesting play, and all the cans of Falstaff it looks like great fun.