MIT Institute Archives & Special Collections

MIT Community Players

The Madwoman of Chaillot, 1958

Acting Workshop Production

The Madwoman of Chaillot, by Jean Giraudoux, a scene from which is captured in the still photograph reproduced here, was staged in March 1958 by the MIT Community Players. The title character, Countess Aurelia, has arranged a tea party for her eccentric friends so they can organize a trial to prosecute unscrupulous businessmen for planning to drill for oil beneath the streets of Paris.

Tea party scene from

Madwoman of Chaillot, 1958

Giraudoux (1882-1944) was a French essayist and dramatist (as well as a government official) who wrote fifteen plays, most of which were originally mounted by the actor-director Louis Jouvet. The plays are characterized by political overtones, extensive use of allegory, and offbeat psychological insights. The Madwoman of Chaillot was written during the German occupation of Paris during World War II and was first staged (posthumously) in 1945 after the city's liberation. The first English translation appeared in 1949.

Unhand her, fiend, scene from under the gas lights

Under the Gas Lights, 1935

The MIT Community Players started in 1933 as the MIT Drama Club under the auspices of faculty wives. Membership was open to staff members and their wives and the wives of students. In 1957 the group was renamed the MIT Community Players, as the membership had expanded to include students and theater enthusiasts with no MIT affiliation. Early performances were given wherever a stage could be found — at various Boston and Cambridge venues, as well as in campus lecture halls and dining rooms. But by 1955 Kresge Auditorium was completed, with the 200-seat Kresge Little Theater providing a well-equipped home for the group's productions.

Disconsolate fairy from

Iolanthe, 1989

Multiple plays and workshops performed by the group each year have run the gamut from Euripides to Tony Kushner — among them William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night ; The Crucible , by Arthur Miller; The Bald Soprano , by Eugene Ionesco; and several Gilbert & Sullivan operas. The Community Players' intent is to enrich the environment of the Institute, entertain audiences, and give pleasure to the various participants — actors as well as those who work behind the scenes on publicity, costumes, lighting, sound, and set design.

A number of other theatrical groups are thriving today at MIT, including the Gilbert and Sullivan Players, the Musical Theatre Guild, the Shakespeare Ensemble, and the MIT Dramashop. A list is available on the Community Players web site. Historical materials about the performing arts at the Institute over the years are available for use in The MIT Institute Archives and Special Collections, 14N-118. The MIT Community Players collection (AC 313) contains photographs of cast members, scenes from performances, clippings, programs, and advertisements. Other collections in the Institute Archives include the records of the MIT Office of the Arts (AC 230), the Tech Show (AC 299), a student production of Hair (AC 315), and the Faculty Drama Club (AC 352); and the papers of MIT alumnus (1983) Harry D. Newman (MC 438).

Object of the Month: October 2006

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