A Short History of the Arden Club And Arden Workshop

People Involved McCord, Mary; Hyer, Robert;


A Short History of the Arden Club

And Arden Workshop


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. The members of the cast became charter members of a dramatic club which was named the Arden Club because of the Arden Forest setting for the comedy. The small grove of trees in which the play was given was spontaneously called Arden Forest. Membership in the club was to be gained by try out and election. For five years the Arden Club was the only group on the campus devoted to play production. Every year they presented from four to six programs of one-act and full length plays. It became traditional to present annually a Shakespearian play at commencement time. After the first year these production were given on the front steps of Dallas Hall.

Because of the increased number of people desiring membership in the club, an apprentice group was founded in 1921. This organization was known as the Junior Arden Club. Its members were selected by competitive try outs. After a period of participation in the apprentice group members could be promoted to the senior organization. Each year three of the six productions were cast from the junior groups and three from the senior. The two united their efforts for the Shakespearean production.

After fourteen years it was again decided that a new system of selecting people to participate in play production was needed. The Junior Arden Club became the Arden Workship—no try outs or other tests were to limit membership. All regularly enrolled students in the; university were invited to join. The distinction between the groups as play production units was eliminated. The Senior Arden Club became again merely the Arden Club. Its membership was to be looked on as honorary and to be achieved by contributions to the general activities of the Workship and major productions. Since this method of organization has been in effect membership in the Workshop has usually been approximately one hundred and that of the Arden Club from ten to thirty.

The activities of the two clubs are combined to give from twenty to fifty one-act plays and from five to eight major productions each year. The annual Shakespearean tradition was interrupted by the War, but was reinstated in 1947.


Mary McCord is a figure whose name is repeated many times in the early documents of the Arden Club, indicative of her importance to the functions of the 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. According to the Arden Club collections at SMU, Ms. McCord 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. Following her retirement, Edyth Renshaw became the Arden Club’s faculty sponsor. Renshaw will become a name often mentioned within the club’s documents.

President Hyer was the first president of Southern Methodist University. He requested that “As You Like It” be performed at the university in the Arden Forest. He served at president from 1911 to 1920.


Southern Methodist University.Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts. Dallas: SMU Libraries, 1951.


Southern Methodist University.Robert S. Hyer Papers DeGolyer Library. Dallas: SMU Libraries, 2005.


Tags President Hyer; Mary McCord; As You Like It; Arden Forest; Edyth Renshaw; Renshaw Collection;