The “Making a People’s Theatre: Proff Koch and the Carolina Playmakers”exhibit focuses on the group’s 56 year history and its influence on the theater community. It is on display now through May 31 in the Wilson Library.
Frederick “Proff” Koch founded Carolina Playmakers in 1918 while he was teaching at the University as a theater outlet for students to write, produce and perform plays.
Scott Parker, director emeritus of the Institute of Outdoor Drama and a UNC alumnus, said he grew up in UNC’s dramatic art department because his father was a faculty member and a Playmaker member. He said Koch’s development of the folk play put the Carolina Playmakers on the map.
“These were plays that he encouraged his students to write, and he suggested that they write what they knew about, and that is to write about their upbringings,” Parker said.
“No one else had ever done it, so there were hundreds of plays written by Carolina students who wrote about their early histories, their early lives back home on the farm. The folk plays became widely known all over the nation.”
Emily Jack, digital projects and outreach librarian at Wilson, said the folk play was Koch’s vision for telling the stories of the people, which was a departure from the romantic and sentimental dramatic approach at the time.
“He emphasized that it’s the interaction between the writing that the playwright does, the acting that the actors do and the direction of the director,” Jack said. “It takes all three of those elements to make a play and that’s why he called it playmaking rather than playwriting.”
Numerous well-known playwrights came out of the group, including Paul Green, Thomas Wolfe and Betty Smith, as well as actor Andy Griffith. The exhibit highlights its notable alumni with original photos, diaries and costumes.