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.