The Theresa Helburn Theatre Collection

College Collections and Special Collections, Bryn Mawr College



Bryn Mawr alumna Theresa Helburn (B.A. 1908) had a long and distinguished career behind the scenes on Broadway, and also made important contributions to the professions of film and television from the 1930s to the 1950s. From a very young age Helburn had literary aspirations and a particular inclination for drama. She found her true artistic calling, however, as a producer with New York's Theatre Guild. Involved from the Guild's foundation in 1919, Helburn served first as a literary manager and then as casting director and eventually became (along with Lawrence Langner) a co-producer. The Theatre Guild specialized in bringing the highest-quality drama of Europe and America to Broadway stages. Breaking away from the common practice of single-ticket sales and productions built around famous stars, the Theatre Guild built a large and loyal season subscription audience as well as establishing enduring relationships with renowned playwrights such as Bernard Shaw and Eugene O'Neill, as well as the actors Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, among many other notable names.

Helburn's responsibilities were wide-ranging, including everything from vetting scripts, to casting plays, to fund-raising, to leading advertising and marketing campaigns. In 1925, just six short years from the establishment of the production company, she presided over the ground breaking ceremony for the new Guild Theatre. In the early 1930s, she worked briefly in Hollywood, and maintained strong ties with the film and television industries until the time of her death, although her first love was always, and would remain, the live theater.

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Page ©2006, Bryn Mawr College, Last modified May 11, 2007