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  • Theatre buildings on an empty street
    Broadway’s Theatre District during the COVID-19 crisis.
    Photo: Matthew Murphy

Theatre 2020 Collection

Documenting a Year of Changes

The global closure of theatres due to the COVID-19 pandemic is without precedent in modern times. This also has been a year of reckoning with longstanding racial injustices highlighted by movements like Black Lives Matter and #WeSeeYouWAT. Theatres are closing permanently. Others are reimagining how they safely engage with audiences. Countless theatre professionals have found themselves suddenly unemployed.

The theatre industry is already radically different than it was at the beginning of 2020, and historians looking back at this moment will want to understand the many ways it has changed. The Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin, a major research center for the study of the history of theatre and performance, has launched a new collecting initiative aiming to document this moment.

Preserving Theatre History in the Digital Age

Previous pandemics like the bubonic plague or the 1918 flu have been documented in personal and organizational archives, published newspapers and periodicals, handwritten journals, and lengthy correspondence. Similarly, past movements around civil rights and labor organizing have produced fliers, meeting minutes, written speeches, recorded programs, and more. In the digital age, there is a danger that material about this moment will not be collected by archives in the same way as before. We want to be proactive in trying to document how the events of 2020 impacted the professional theatre community, and we need your help.

We Need You

The Theatre 2020 Collection is seeking digital files from theatre professionals that could help future scholars and students understand this moment and how the theatre community responded. How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your career? Your organization or theatre company? How have your plans changed?

We’ll be collecting stories and files throughout the duration of the pandemic. Simply register as an individual or an organization, and we’ll send you a link to a folder with instructions on how to upload content. You can choose to submit whatever files you are comfortable sharing that help document your experience or the experience of your organization. The Ransom Center will review submissions to ensure they align with the scope of this collecting initiative, and the files will be preserved and made accessible for research at the Center.

  • Frequently Asked Questions

    Who can participate?
    We are collecting material from theatre professionals and theatre organizations. Performers, playwrights, dramaturgs, producers, agents, critics, front-of-house staff, back-of-house staff, administrators, union leaders, etc.—we would like to understand how COVID-19 has impacted your work or the work of your organization. We are hoping to collect a diverse range of responses from a variety of geographic areas.

    Are there materials you particularly want to include?
    The focus of the material you submit should be on the events of 2020 and how they have affected your professional work/career in the theatre industry. You should have the authority to share the materials you submit. Some ideas for what you might consider sending:

    • Canceled season/production information
    • Advocacy work
    • Relevant e-mails
    • Grant applications
    • Communications with constituents
    • Press releases
    • Meeting minutes or recordings
    • Re-opening plans
    • Projected/actual budgets
    • Recent resumé
    • Text journals
    • Video/audio journals
    • Original works created during the pandemic
    • Photographs
    • Recordings of virtual performances, readings, and programs
    • Downloads of your Twitter feed
    • Safety procedures
    • Social media posts

    Are there materials to avoid?
    Please avoid submitting anything you do not have permission or the rights to share. You should also be careful not to include documents that contain sensitive data, such as account numbers, Social Security Numbers, passwords, etc. The focus of the material you submit should be on the events of 2020 and how they have influenced your professional work/career in the theatre industry. Please avoid submitting files that do not relate to this focus, as we won’t be able to retain them for the Theatre 2020 Collection.

    How can I send you my materials?
    After you register, you will be sent a link to a folder on where you can upload your files. You can continue to upload files for the duration of the collecting period. You will be notified by email once a date is scheduled for the end of the collecting period.

    How will my materials be used? Who will see them?
    Files will be available for research in the reading room of the Harry Ransom Center at The University of Texas at Austin. Research is open to anyone with a photo ID who registers for reading room access onsite. During the registration process, you will also have the option to allow a selection of your files to be added to the Center’s Digital Collections portal, which would allow online access to researchers remotely. Items will only be added to the Digital Collections portal with your permission.

    Do I still own copyright to this material?
    Yes. The agreement transfers ownership of a copy of an electronic file to the Ransom Center, but the copyright holder retains their rights to the content. Under standard U.S. copyright laws, researchers who access the collection may paraphrase or quote a limited amount of material without seeking permission.

    Who will have access to my contact information?
    On the registration form, you will be able to identify whom researchers should contact with copyright questions. If this is you or another person, this contact information may be shared with individuals for the purposes of securing copyright.

    Can I submit material anonymously?
    No. We can only accept material from identified sources, and will need to be able to identify the source for researchers when they use the collection in the future.

    What file types do you accept?
    We accept the following file types: .docx, .doc, .xslx, .csv, .jpg, .tiff, .png, .pdf, .ppt, .xml, .txt, .mov, .mp4, .mp3, and .wav. If you have a program-specific file type (ex. AutoCAD), please include a .txt or .doc file with a brief description of the original program that created the file, including the version or edition information, and why the file is being included in the material. If you have questions about a specific file type, email Brenna Edwards, the Ransom Center’s Manager for Digital Archives, at

    Can I keep adding additional material?
    Yes! You will have access to the Box folder for as long as the collecting period is open. You will receive an email before the collecting period is closed to ensure any remaining materials you would like to add can be posted.

    How long will you keep this material?
    The Theatre 2020 Collection will become part of the Harry Ransom Center’s permanent collections. We expect files to be preserved and made accessible in perpetuity, though we reserve the right to remove materials that are out of scope or to convert file formats for preservation purposes.

    Can I send physical material?
    The Theatre 2020 Collection is primarily envisioned as a digital archive, but there may be unique items that do not translate to a digital format. Contact us at and let us know what you are thinking!

    What is the Harry Ransom Center?
    The Ransom Center is an internationally renowned humanities research center, library, and museum at The University of Texas at Austin. Our extensive collections provide unique insight into the creative process of some of our finest writers and artists, deepening the understanding and appreciation of literature, photography, film, art, and the performing arts. The Center holds one of the largest collections of American, British, and Irish playwright archives including the papers of David Hare, Lillian Hellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Terrence McNally, Arthur Miller, John Osborne, J. B. Priestley, Elmer Rice, Tom Stoppard, and Tennessee Williams, along with significant collections of writers like Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Sam Shepard, and Oscar Wilde. Visitors to the onsite reading room can access over 1,100 audio and video recordings of Stella Adler's master classes on acting and script interpretation, John Wilkes Booth's promptbook for Richard III, Harry Houdini's love letters to his wife Bess, and epic scene designs by artists like Boris Aronson, Norman Bel Geddes, Gordon Conway, and Eldon Elder. Once we reopen, visitors will also have access to the Theatre 2020 Collection.

    Have additional questions?
    You can contact Dr. Eric Colleary, the Ransom Center’s curator of theatre & performing arts, at with any questions, comments, or concerns.


Dr. Eric Colleary
Curator of Theatre & Performing Arts

News Release

Collecting effort to document theater community’s response to 2020 launched

Oral History Interviews

Diana Burbano


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Dawn Chiang

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Deborah Hay


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Scott Heller

New York Times Theatre Editor

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Christine Toy Johnson

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Richard Jordan

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Dmytro Morykit and Hazel Cameron

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Robert Myles


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Robb Nanus

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Lynn Nottage


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Austin Pendleton


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Brian James Polak


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Clint Ramos

Set and costume designer

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Robert Schenkkan

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Nzinga Williams

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David Zinn

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