Monday, January 26, 2015

WC Theatre's International Tour: Taking The Pajama Game Overseas

From October 21 through December 3, 1962, the Woman's College Theatre participated in a series of college student productions that toured overseas Army, Navy, and Air Force installations and provided free entertainment for servicemen and their families. WC was one of 29 American colleges and universities participating in the tour, which was sponsored by the USO (United Service Organizations) along with AETA (American Educational Theater Association).

The WC Theatre chose the musical "The Pajama Game" as its performance for touring. Based on the novel 7 1/2 Cents by Richard Bissell, "The Pajama Game" tells the tales of individuals working in a pajama factory. The WC company was assigned a six-week route throughout the Northeast Command area, which included Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and Iceland. The route, which covered nearly 12,000 miles, included a performance at Thule, Greenland, approximately 500 miles away from the North Pole. 

Competition to join the touring group was fierce, and students were required to not only perform but also serve as production technicians. Selection was limited to juniors and seniors due to "the sophisticated nature of the clubs which the Company would frequent during the tour." Only drama majors, members of the student drama organization The Masqueraders, or former performers in WC productions were allowed to audition. Additionally "because of the arctic climate, students free of allergies and of proven physical stamina were chosen." Eleven WC students were selected to be part of the touring company. Five students from UNC Chapel Hill and one from Greensboro College also joined the company to take on the male roles.

The lead female role of Babe in "The Pajama Game" was played by WC senior Shirley Bosta of Hampton, Virginia. The performance notes describe her as "a fiery red head with an even temperament," and adds that "she is the only Woman's College student ever to have two leading roles in musical comedies."

Student selected to join the company were required to enroll in a special nine-hour drama course entitled "Woman's College Theatre North Atlantic Tour." In addition to this nine-hour course, various departments having student majors participating in the tour arranged for the students to take an additional three hours during the early part of the semester, before the touring began. For example, Drama and Speech Department majors took a course in playwrighting. English majors did special honors work. Additionally, a special seminar room in the College Library was reserved for students to read books on "the arts and crafts, people, history, and geography" of the areas they would be visiting.

Of the 31 performances in the tour, 11 were to full houses with most of those including standees. Attendance at the others was near capacity. In his final report on the tour, Herman Middleton, head of WC's Department of Drama and Speech and director of the touring production, noted that the bulk of the audiences consisted of young enlisted men between the ages of 18 and 25. The audience was enthusiastic with "many flash photographs and movies made during performances."

This successful overseas tour of "The Pajama Game" was actually the second time WC was asked to perform as part of the USO-AETA tour. In the summer of 1959, WC Theatre was the first college theater in the south to be selected for tour. They traveled to Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Hawaii to perform Clare Boothe's comedy "The Women." In 1966, after WC transitioned to UNCG, a group once again participated with a touring production of "L'il Abner."

Monday, January 19, 2015

The 100th Anniversary Time Capsule

This is part three of a three-part blog regarding campus time capsules. A time capsule contains commemorative material for access at a future date. There have been four known time capsules in the history of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).

The 100th Anniversary Time Capule

Almost immediately after the fiftieth year “Anniversary Box” was opened in October of 1991, plans were already underway to create another time capsule for the centennial celebrations of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). This time capsule would contain artifacts and memorabilia from 1992 and would be opened in October of 2042 during the celebrations for the 150th anniversary of the college. Instead of choosing a plain metal box like the previous time capsule, it was decided that next receptacle would be the winner of a campus-wide design competition. All UNCG students were eligible to enter and were required to manufacture the item, which would not only be functional, but also a work of art. The competition rules required the time capsule to be either two or three dimensional, created of permanent material, and able to be locked. The winner would be announced on October 4, 1991, the opening of the centennial ceremony, and would receive a $750 prize. 

On October 4, 1991, the winner of the competition was announced as Robert E. (Trey) Sharp III, a senior form Winston-Salem, North Carolina, majoring in sculpture and religious studies. Sharp created a spherical ceramic container on a branch-like bronze stand that could be sealed with a bead of wax.

The university also asked for student input as to what would be placed into the capsule to represent the year 1992. Ultimately, it included a message from Chancellor William Moran to UNCG students fifty years in the future, speeches and artifacts associated with the centennial, campus photographs, and university programs and publications. Additionally, it incorporated material that reflected national and international events and concerns such as a piece of the Berlin Wall, AIDS brochures, political memorabilia, and Wilderness magazine containing a list of 500 endangered species. It was decided that the time capsule would be kept in the library and it has remained there ever since it was sealed. It had resided near the access services desk in Jackson Library until recently when it was moved to the second floor of the original library building, outside the doors of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Reading Room - where the history of the university is kept.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Fiftieth Anniversary Time Capsule

This is part two of a three-part blog regarding campus time capsules. A time capsule contains commemorative material for access at a future date. There have been four known time capsules in the history of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).

Fiftieth Anniversary Box

The first anniversary time capsule was created during the 1941/1942 school year in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding and the subsequent opening of the college on October 5, 1892. This was an important anniversary that was accompanied by a celebratory year of concerts, lectures, and special visitors. It culminated in the presentation of “We, The Women,” an original play written especially for the occasion. The “Anniversary Box” was a simple green metal container which included items such as messages from Mrs. Lula Martin McIver, wife of founder and first president Charles Duncan McIver; Dr. Walter Clinton Jackson, Dean of Administration and later Chancellor, as well as student essays. It also included college publications, artifacts, textiles, and anniversary programs. An especially interesting artifact was a Havilland demitasse cup and saucer, which had been purchased in 1892, the year that the school opened.

Havilland demitasse cup and saucer, 1892 

Although the year brought excitement and special events, everyone on campus was very aware that the country was in the midst of a world war, and materials related to the war were also included in the capsule. The final convocation was held on October 6, 1942, and it was at this event that the Anniversary Box was officially packed and locked. Dr. Jackson captured the spirit of the day by his inspiring words, “We here proclaim our devout hope that those who look back from 1992 will give thanks to us for our labor and will take from our hands our banner of ‘SERVICE’ and carry it to greater heights.” As directed, the Anniversary Box was opened fifty years later to commemorate the one hundredth year of the school’s opening. The contents were displayed in Jackson Library within an exhibit commemorating the capsule and life on campus during World War II.

An article written for The Carolinian in February of 1942 looked even further into the future when it advised, “We must have the strength and foresight to prepare another fifty years for the next generation, not reveling in the satisfaction of past glory but looking to a more glorious 100th anniversary.”

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Cornerstone Time Capsules

This is part one of a three-part blog regarding campus time capsules. A time capsule contains commemorative material for access at a future date. There are four known time capsules in the history of The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG).

When Brick Dormitory burned to the ground on the night of January 4, 1904, on the grounds of the State Normal and Industrial College (now UNCG), it was decided not to replace it with another residence hall.  Instead, a new building was constructed on the same site, designated solely for classrooms. By the time that the cornerstone was laid for the new structure on May 25, 1908, the president and founder of the college, Charles Duncan McIver had died and the building was named in his honor. 

McIver Memorial Building

The cornerstone ceremony was held with great pomp and circumstance, beginning with a parade through campus. Over 500 students, faculty, alumnae, and guests made their way from the Students’ Building to the McIver Memorial Building. The crowd first sang "America" and then said a prayer. The ceremony was presided over by the local Freemasons (Masons), an organization dating back to stonemason fraternities of the fourteenth century. It was not unusual for Masons to participate in cornerstone rituals and this event was especially poignant as McIver himself was a very active member of the Winston Lodge. The Grand Treasurer of the Masonic Lodge solemnly placed the time capsule in the cornerstone. It contained books, a copy of the Bible, the Constitution of North Carolina, college programs and publications from 1908, current North Carolina newspapers, and McIver's family tree, as well as material related to the Masonic Order and the Presbyterian Church.

The cornerstone ceremony, 1908 

The McIver Memorial Building was demolished in 1956 and eventually replaced by a new modern building, also named for Charles Duncan McIver. The little copper box that held the original time capsule was opened during the 1957 Founder's Day festivities, only to find that it not been sealed properly and much of the original material was ruined.

Opening the time capsule, 1957
There was a general feeling that another time capsule should be incorporated into the new McIver Building. The material for time capsule was assembled by school librarian Charles Adams and a small committee. They were able to keep the bottom of the original copper box and arranged for a new top to be made by a local roofer. The committee made sure that the seams of the box were soldered so it would remain air-tight. Along with the original 1908 material that could be salvaged, contemporary items were also sealed within the box and placed into the cornerstone.

The new McIver Building, 1959
On October 5, 1959, during the Founder’s Day ceremony, the  cornerstone from the original structure was incorporated into the new McIver Building. Students, faculty, alumnae, city officials, and several people who attended the 1908 ceremony attended the ceremony, which focused on the history of the school. Unlike the 1908 cornerstone ceremony, the chancellor presided over the festivities - but the Masons did send a representative. The cornerstone time capsule will be opened once again when the new McIver building is replaced.

Chancellor Blackwell sealing the cornerstone, 1959