Theresa Helburn (1887-1959) had a long, distinguished career behind the scenes on Broadway, and was an important figure in film and television from the 1930s to the 1950s. Her Bryn Mawr theatrical activities included assignments as director and playwright, as well as portraying, in her words: "Shakespearean clowns, and costume villains."
Helburn started as a drama critic for The Nation, but the Theatre Guild soon became the focus of her work. She first served the Guild as a literary manager, then as a casting director, and eventually became a co-producer. The Theatre Guild specialized in bringing high quality drama to Broadway. It broke the common pattern of single ticket sales, and productions built around famous stars, in favor of a large season subscription audience and long-term relationships with playwrights such as George Bernard Shaw, Eugene O'Neill, Karl Kapek, and Maxwell Anderson. Musical theater greats Rodgers and Hammerstein's ground-breaking Oklahoma! was the most famous and successful Guild production, running from 1943-1948. Katharine Hepburn performed in several Theatre Guild productions including The Philadelphia Story, Jane Eyre, and As You Like It.
Helburn's papers, held by the Library, include scripts, stage plans, programs, and other ephemera of over one hundred Theatre Guild productions, as well as 1400 photographs from the shows.