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Laura Bird papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 018.LB

Scope and Content note

The Laura Bird papers documents the research of Eastern Michigan University alumna in completing her dissertation about the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre that was established and associated with sesquicentennial celebration of the city of Ypsilanti. Materials in the collection are divided chronologically into three series: Board or Directors, Festival/Theatre Information and Oral History Interviews.

The Board of Directors series consists of meeting agendas and minutes from the 1960s, primarily 1966-68; funding information; notes from President John Mayhew, and records from the speakers bureau.

The Festival/Theatre Information series consists of planning, production and product materials. Planning materials documents committes involved, feasibility study insight, and finances. Production records include biographies, building and grounds information, photographs and programs. Product materials including newspaper articles, press releases and reviews.

The Oral History Interviews includes notes, board lists, correspondence, interviews, question and consent forms and material connecting the Ypsi Greek Theatre to Stratford.

The collection does not contain a copy of the dissertation The Ypsilanti Greek Theatre, 1963-68 submitted to Michigan State University in 1999 by Laura Bird.


  • Creation: 1960 - 1970
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1963 - 1967

Biographical note

Laura C. Hansen Bird was born in 1963 and grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She attended Eastern Michigan University in the 1980s, earning both an undergraduate and a master's degree. She went on to earn a PhD from Michigan State University in 1999. Her dissertation The Ypsilanti Greek Theatre, 1963-1968 was submitted to Michigan State University under the advisement of Frank C. Rutledge. She developed the Theatre program at Concordia College in Ann Arbor, Michigan and currently serves as the theatre manager and teacher at the Greenhills School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

History of the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre

The Ypsilanti Greek Theatre, sometimes referred to as the Ypsilanti Greek Festival, was an organization existing roughly from 1963 to 1967, whose purpose was to bring about a revival of the ancient Greek dramatic tradition in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The Ypsilanti Greek Theatre was included in the celebrations planned for the Ypsilanti sesquicentennial celebration. The celebration was designed in part to transform Ypsilanti into an economic, cultural, and educational center, the sesquicentennial did spur long-term plans to increase tourism, attract businesses, and create new educational facilities. As part of this vision, in 1963 a group of people organized, dedicating themselves to the revival of Greek drama. They drew widespread support over the next two years and were able to convert a baseball staduim into a theatre simulating a Hellenistic Greek Theatre by the summer of 1965. Alexis Solomos, former director of the Greek National Theatre in Athens, became the artistic director, and many prominent local people served as officers including Mrs. Clara Owens, the president of the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre.

The Theatre produced Aeschylus' The Oresteia and Aristophanes' The Birds which included performances by some well-known actors such as Dame Jusith Anderson, Ruby Dee, and Burt Lahr. Despite its artistic success, the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre failed after its first season due to monetary problems and mismanagement. Mrs. Owens' relationship with the Board of Directors of the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre was less than harmonious; a number of conflicts arose usually centered around administrative decisions and the management of finances. The Ypsilanti Greek Theatre closed in 1967 having produced only one season.


0.6 Linear Feet (1 archive box, 1 slide box)

Language of Materials



The Laura Bird papers ranges in dates from 1960-1970, with the bulk of the material falling between 1963-1967. The collection contains the documentation collected during the original dissertation research process of EMU alumna Laura Bird regarding the short-lived life and production of the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre in celebration of the Ypsilanti sesquisentential. In 1999, Bird submitted her dissertation The Ypsilanti Greek Theatre, 1963-1968 to Michigan State University under the advisement of Frank C. Rutledge. The collection is a near complete record of the research.

Related Materials note

A copy of Laura Bird's Dissertation can be found at the Ypsilanti Historical Society as well as online through the Dissertations & Theses Global Full Text database through a search for Laura Bird as author and Michigan State University. A copy of the catalog record can be viewed below:

Uniform Title: Dissertations & theses @ CIC institutions. In Collection: Dissertation Abstracts International 61-02A. Summary: The Ypsilanti Greek Theatre (YGT) was a truly remarkable achievement by any standards. A unique undertaking, the festival was dedicated to the professional performance of a repertory of classical Greek theatre in the English language. Aristophanes' The Birds played in repertory with the Aeschylus' Oresteia in the 1966 inaugural season. YGT was an ambitious effort to establish a major theatre festival in the state of Michigan. It gathered performers of the highest caliber to Ypsilanti and they garnered international critical acclaim. The company included Dame Judith Anderson, Ruby Dee, Donald Davis, Jacqueline Brookes, and Bert Lahr. Alexis Solomos, former director of the Greek National Theatre, was imported to serve as artistic director.

The circumstances surrounding YGT's achievement make it even more remarkable. The organizers were strictly amateurs with little or no experience with the theatre or with fundraising. Ypsilanti was a small, economically depressed Midwestern community. No one in America had ever attempted a theatre festival dedicated to classical Greek theatre before. The amazing successes of that summer of 1966 carried with them the seeds of the project's failure. YGT was never able to mount a second season. The purpose of this study is to document the history of the YGT from its early planning stages in 1963 through 1968, the year the fruitless efforts to duplicate the triumphs of 1966 were finally abandoned. It will also look for the causes of YGT's extraordinary success and ultimate failure and analyze their implications.

The structure of the study is essentially chronological. An historical sketch of the community that gave YGT birth and an overview of the theatrical situation of the early 1960s will provide a frame of reference. In addition, a comparison of the YGT experience with other theatre festivals will provide a further context for evaluating YGT.

Note: Source: Dissertation Abstracts International, Volume: 61-02, Section: A, page: 0429. Adviser: Frank C. Rutledge. Thesis (Ph.D.)--Michigan State University, 1999.

ISBN: 9780599676695



Laura Bird papers
Mikayla Kies, Graduate Student at Simmons College School of Library and Information Science
2016 November 11
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Repository Details

Part of the Eastern Michigan University Archives Repository

Bruce T. Halle Library, Room 310
955 West Circle Drive
Ypsilanti Michigan 48197