Did You Know: ASU's Child Drama Collection Among Rarest In The World

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, October 16, 2015 - 4:59pm
Audio icon Download mp3 (5.06 MB)
(Photo courtesy of the ASU Child Drama Collection)
Costume and make-up artist Irene Corey with Barney, the famous dinasour from PBS. Corey created the costume.

It lures scholars from all over the world. The unique collection has been around for more than 35 years. Today it’s considered one-of-a-kind.

Situated on the second floor of the Arizona State University Hayden Library is a room filled with designs and books, among other things. It’s the Child Drama Collection that houses thousands of theater pieces. Did You Know … the collection is among the rarest in the world?

“The child drama collection is the largest repository in the world documenting the international history of theater for youth back to the 16th century," said Katherine Krzys, the curator of this unique compilation.

“It documents the history of performance - adults performing for young people, children performing for each other, as well as preschool through high school theater education,” Krzys said.

The Child Drama Collection was started in 1979.  Among its items are videos, costumes, props, puppets, theater programs, set models, production photographs and even k-12 curriculum. There are about 33,000 play scripts from all over the world.

“If you were an artist a playwright or a professor in the field, you would benefit by knowing that this is here,” Krzys said.

The room that houses the collection is lined with metal shelves stacked with old books. The walls are piled with cabinets packed full with costume sketches and set designs. The collection tries to acquire and preserve artistic materials from youth theaters dating to the 1500s.

“This is one of our oldest books. So this is a Greek play translated into Latin that was used by school boys in Shakespeare’s time to perform,” Krzys said.

The collection has entire archives from youth theater notables like Irene Corey, the make-up and costume designer of more than 50 theatrical productions including The Book of Job.

She’s also the costume creator of PBS’s Barney the Dinosaur. That one is not in this collection, but other prominent pieces from all over the country are.

“In addition to child’s play we have a full archive for Honolulu Theater for Youth, for the Coterie Theater in Kansas City, for the creative arts team in New York City,” Krzys said.

The challenge with preserving these antiquities and modern pieces of art is assuring they are available for public viewing. Some of the print materials have been digitized for easy access.

The Child Drama Collection also archives for the Phoenix-based Childsplay Theater.

One Source, My Connection!