Comparing the Early and Final Years of the Arden Club’s Publicity

On March 10, 1917, The Dallas Morning News published a column titled “Arden Club Entertains” which states: “The Arden Club of the Southern Methodist University gave a program at Grand Prairie last night in the high school auditorium. About 250 persons expressed their appreciation of the entertainment. The program consisted of a reading by Miss Ruth Handon and done by Lowell M. Dye. “Gringoire,” a comedy, was the play of the evening. The club contemplates several trips in the future” (Dallas Morning News, 1917). The Arden Club was contemplating several trips in the future to perform more plays, illuminating the success of the club even in its first months of formation. Within these first few months, the Club already attained a presence in the outlying cities of Dallas, appearing in performances in which hundreds of people wanted to attend.

The Dallas Morning News on June 12, 1917, published an article titled “Arden Club Members Play ‘Twelfth Night’ – Performance on Southern Methodist University Campus Well Received,” which states:

“One of the most enjoyable of the commencement events at Southern Methodist University was the presentation of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night by the Arden Club of the university yesterday afternoon in the grove on the south edge of the campus. Over 800 persons attended the performance and evidenced their appreciation of the efforts of the players by frequent and whole-hearted applause. The play was produced under the direction of Miss Mary McCord of the department of expression and was presented in an artistic and pleasing manner.”

The article continues for many paragraphs, providing detail of the performance, including highlighting the most exceptional acting from the student cast as well as a complete list of the actors from the play. In only three months, the Arden Club’s presence in the Dallas Morning News grew from small columns of a few sentences to long articles entailing great detail about the club and the students and faculty within the club. This growth of presence in the newspaper is indicative of the growing success of the Arden Club. As the Arden Club became more prominently known within the Dallas community, the demand for information in regard to the club was heightened by the readers of the Dallas Morning News newspaper.

Mary McCord was responsible in large part for driving the Arden Club’s success. In a document surveying Arden Club history, Mary McCord is listed in the first sentence of the document: “At the end of the first academic, 1916-17, year at S.M.U., upon the request of President Robert S. Hyer, Shakespeare’s comedy “As You Like It” was produced by Mary McCord, who was at that time head of the Speech Department.” President Hyer’s reliance on Mary McCord to carry out this production emphasizes McCord’s role as the backbone of the Arden Club. Ms. McCord served as the sponsor and director of the Arden Club. She was recognized by many students as being one of the main actors in the success of the club. Additionally, Miss Mary McCord was recognized not only within the Arden Club but holistically within the realm of Southern Methodist University as noted in 100 Years on the Hilltop:“Mary Lizzie McCord, one of the first female faculty members hired… in her long career at SMU, she founded SMU’s speech department, sponsored debate and oratory contests organized the Arden Club to present dramatic productions, and remained a valued faculty member until 1947 (pg 41). Mary McCord remains memorialized in the names of the McCord Auditorium in Dallas Hall at Southern Methodist University, further highlighting her contributions to the university. While Ms. McCord contributed greatly the Arden Club, she eventually retired from the university in 1943. Given that the Arden Club was formed in 1917, this indicates that Mary McCord played a major role in the club for a couple of decades. The Arden Club appeared over ten times in the Dallas Morning News in the year of 1917. Within these appearances, Miss Mary McCord’s name was mentioned multiple times, further emphasizing her importance not only to the club’s initial formation but also to its success within its first few years of existence.

The success of the Arden Club within its first couple years of formation is clear. Although the Arden Club eventually merged to become a part of the Division of Theatre in the Meadows School of the Arts in 1969, the Club’s success was evident even in its last years (Abbott, 1915). However, the publicity received through the Dallas Morning News shifted as the SMU Meadows School of the Arts became labeled as the source of Arden Club productions. On December 14, 1967, a little over a year before the Arden Club would officially merge into the Meadows School of the Arts, the Dallas Morning News published an article titled “SMU School of Arts to Finish a Busy Semester,” in which the plans for Arden Club were published within this article. The Arden Club’s agenda becoming embedded into the broader agenda of the Meadows school is indicative that an official merge into the school was foreshadowed by the city of Dallas.

In the December 10tharticle, the Dallas Morning News states “The 9thCity Theatre of SMU’s Theater Department scheduled its second program of provisional theater in the current year at 8:15 pm Thursday evening in the Arden Playhouse” (1967). This statement makes clear that theatre productions hosted by SMU were now publicized as officially being part of the broader Theater Department at SMU rather than being publicized as part of the Arden Club.

The ways in which publicity is presented, and how this then affects the worldview of those who interact with this publicity, requires investigation. For the Arden Club, much of this publicity was presented through the Dallas Morning News. This news outlet played a significant role in enforcing the success of the Arden Club, even in the Club’s early years of formation. The news outlet also traces the transitions of the Arden Club, including its emergence into the greater SMU theatre department within the Meadows School of the Arts. Understanding how these transitions and holistic functionalities of the club was perceived through the media is vital in truly grasping the presence of the Arden Club within the city of Dallas beyond official Arden Club documents. While official Arden Club documents are sufficient in understanding the everyday functions of the club, these documents are created by those within the club, therefore creating an opportunity for bias and possible exaggeration. The Dallas Morning News articles assist in verifying the successes of the Arden Club and how these successes were delivered and perceived beyond the SMU community.

 

Sanaa Ghanim

Works Cited

Abbott, Billy Mack. A History of the Arden Club of Southern Methodist University from 1915 to 1942 … [Dallas], 1951.

 

“Arden Club Entertains.” The Dallas Morning News, 10 Mar. 1917.

 

Payne, Darwin. One Hundred Years on the Hilltop : the Centennial History of Southern Methodist University / Darwin Payne. First edition. Dallas: DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, 2016. Print.

 

“SMU School of Arts to Finish a Busy Semester.” The Dallas Morning News, 10 Dec. 1967.

 

“To Take Part in Shakespearean Play on Southern Methodist University Campus.” The Dallas Morning News, 10 June 1917.