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Mary Lou Kramer Papers

Mary Lou Kramer (1907-1988), in an article in the Columbia Record of 1 May 1952, spoke of her origins and philosophy as a drama teacher--"I did summer stock and trouped with a Lyceum circuit for three seasons. It was during this time that I coached another actress in a part as part of my training. I then realized that I got more satisfaction from teaching someone else than from acting myself. I decided that I didn't really want to be an actress and I've been teaching ever since. I know I'm a better teacher than I am an actress....The study of dramatics should be integrated with living. It develops poise and self confidence. My job is teaching persons who enter varied walks of life...to help make their jobs easier."

Two and a half linear feet of papers focus upon this "grande dame of Columbia theatre" and her long and fruitful career as an instructor of voice, diction and acting. A native of Georgia, she received a degree in speech from Georgia State College for Women in 1927 and then pursued her education in drama at the Leland Powers School of Theatre in Boston and Columbia University in New York. She was an actress for three years in a summer stock program before coming to South Carolina in 1933 to teach declamation and debate at Batesburg-Leesville High School. In 1934 she and her husband, Reginald, moved to Columbia, where she became head of the Speech and Drama Department at Columbia College. She remained there until 1953. In 1946 she was part of the collaborative effort which revived the Columbia Children's Theatre at Town Theatre and for eighteen years directed its productions. She also directed Workshop Theatre's first full-length play, "Dylan," in 1967 and later served on the theatre's board of directors.

The bulk of the material here documents her work and that of her students on various theatrical productions. One series of clippings represents the pre- and post-performance press coverage for thirteen Children's Theatre productions from 1950 to 1954. Miscellaneous playbills span the period from 1950 to 1987. Especially interesting and important are the letters she kept from her former students and the files she maintained on their developing careers. Among these, those of Bettye Ackerman, Sarah Hardy, and Geddeth Smith figure most prominently.

Rounding out the collection are close to two hundred photographs, 1936 to ca. 1967, of various players and productions; typescript copies of skits and choral readings for children and young adults; and a scrapbook, 1935-1975, covering the associations from Mrs. Kramer's years at Columbia College.

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