Bookmark this page or copy and paste URL to Email message

Mary Jane Evans Papers 1945-1988


Overview of the Collection

Creator: Evans, Mary Jane
Title: Mary Jane Evans Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1945-1988
Quantity: 3 Boxes (4 Linear Feet)
Abstract:The Mary Jane Evans Papers, 4 linear feet, contains the papers of this theatre for youth author, stage director, playwright, producer and university professor from 1945 through 1988. The collection documents over thirty years of her professional life as a theatre for youth educator, stage director and author. The papers are divided into the following series: Professional History, Educator, Author and Director.
Identification: MSS-262
Language: Material in English
Repository: Arizona State University Library. Child Drama Collection
P.O. Box 871006
Tempe, AZ 85287-1006
Phone: (480) 965-4932
Questions? Ask An Archivist!

Biographical Note

Mary Jane Evans, theatre for youth author, stage director, playwright, producer and university professor was born to Hazel and Lionel H. Larson in 1923 in Superior, Wisconsin. She had one brother.

She attended public schools in Marquette, Michigan and Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She attended Ely (Minnesota) Junior College. She became a student in the School of Speech at Northwestern University, where she studied with Winifred Ward. She attended the first national Children's Theatre Conference in 1944, which was held on this university's campus. She graduated with a B.A. in 1944.

Following graduation, Evans joined the children's drama program staff at Cain Park Theatre in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, where she worked with the Director, Dina Rees Evans. It was here that she met Evans nephew and fellow associate staff member, Robley D. Evans, whom she later married in 1961.

She initiated a drama program at Sunbeam School for Crippled Children in Cleveland. A 1946 marriage to Harrison Wills-Watkins ended in divorce. She did graduate work at the University of Minnesota, at Western Reserve University and at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. In 1953 Evans became Director of the Junior Civic Theatre of Kalamazoo, Michigan.

In 1954, she accepted a graduate assistantship at Michigan State University. Her masters program culminated in her adaptation of William Thackeray's novel, The Rose and the Ring. After receiving her M.A. degree from Michigan State University, she was hired by the university as a speech and theatre lecturer. She directed plays with college students and children and taught creative drama classes. She was a colleague of Jed Davis with whom she was to collaborate on several books in the field.

In 1959, she joined the faculty at San Fernando Valley State College, later named California State University, Northridge, where she established a program in creative drama and children's theatre. During her tenure, she served as department chair and the director of graduate students. Her productions toured under the auspices of Junior Programs of California and were regularly reviewed by the Los Angeles-area press. She was promoted to Full Professor in 1970. In 1981 her program received the Children's Theatre Association of Americas (CTAA) Sara Spencer Artistic Achievement Award, which honors artistic theatre practice of long duration and wide recognition. She retired as Professor Emeritus in 1985 and moved with her husband Rob to Minneapolis.

Evans was an active member of the national children's theatre association. She attended the founding meeting of the Children's Theatre Conference (CTC), and was involved in the development of its successor, the Children's Theatre Association of America. She served as Secretary, Governing Board member, Regional Governor, and hosted the 1968 Conference at California State University, Northridge.

Evans served on the American Theatre Association (ATA) Board of Directors and Executive Committee, chaired its Task Force on Governance and contributed to its Commission on Theatre Education. She also served on the Executive Board of ASSITEJ/USA, the American center of the International Association of Theatre for Children and Young People, which was renamed TYA/USA in the late 2000s.

Evans held several leadership positions with the California theatre organizations--the Southern California Educational Theatre Association (SCETA) and the California Educational Theatre Association (CETA). She spearheaded CETAs 1974 publication of the Drama/Theatre Framework for California Public Schools: A Process-Concept Framework for a Program in Theatre Arts for All Students, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, which was adopted by the California State Board of Education. She was a major force behind the creation of the annual Southern California Children's Theatre Festival.

Evans and Jed H. Davis co-authored two books: Children's Theatre: Play Production for the Child Audience, published by Harper in 1960; and Theatre, Children and Youth published by Anchorage Press in 1982. The latter was revised in 1987. Evans and graduate student, Deborah Anderson, collaborated on the book for the musical for young audiences titled Tales from Hans Christian Andersen. Evans also wrote the lyrics and Ed Archer wrote the musical score. It was published by Anchorage Press in 1983. Editor Nellie McCaslin asked Evans to write a chapter titled, "Theatre for Children: Art Form or Anarchy?" for her book, Theatre for Young Audiences, published by Longman in 1978.

Additional honors and awards include:

Induction into the College of Fellows of the American Theatre, 1977.
Campton Bell Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, 1987.
SCETA Award for Outstanding Contributions to Theatre for Young Audiences.
Outstanding Theatre Educator Award, presented by CETA, 1987.
Children's Theatre Foundation of America Medallion for mentoring, 2002.

She passed away on November 20, 2007 at her residence in the Episcopal Home of Minnesota in St. Paul. She was survived by her only son, Dr. David Rees Evans, and by his wife, Ursula McCarty. In her early career, she was also known as Mary Jane Watkins and Mary Jane Larson.

Scope and Content Note

The Mary Jane Evans Papers, 1945-1987, is comprised of correspondence, hand and typewritten notes, newspaper and periodical articles, greeting and notes cards, project and position papers, agreements, agendas, reports, schedules, fliers, programs, play typescripts, journals, newsletters, curricula, syllabi, books, newsletters, professional journals and articles, colleague and student papers, newspaper reviews, posters, photographs, slides, musical scores and a handbook. The collection documents over thirty years of her professional career as a theatre for youth educator, stage director and author. The papers bulk dates are 1957-1985 and are divided into the following series: Professional History (Box 1), Educator (Box 1 and 2), Author (Box 2) and Director (Boxes 2 and 3).

Series I: Professional History: This series, 1957-1988, mostly contains biographical material and documentation of her extensive participation in professional theatre and education organizations and conferences. The remainder of the series documents her community service and project work. The biographical information consists of correspondence, handwritten notes, newspaper and periodical articles, greeting and notes cards, letters of support and recognition, and a few play programs. The professional theatre and educational organizations and conferences materials contain position papers, keynote addresses, handwritten notes, correspondence, agendas, reports, schedules, fliers, conference programs, professional journals, newsletters and colleagues papers on creative drama, drama in education and children's theatre. These provide information on her involvement with: Trainers of Teacher Trainers; the Wingspread national theatre conference; the American Theatre Association (ATA); and the Children's Theatre Association of Americas (CTAA) panels, sessions, seminars and symposiums. The community service and projects document her presentations on children's theatre and arts in education to the community and her consulting work for the California Arts and Humanities Council. Included are project agreements and reports, correspondence, fliers, programs and presentation papers. There is no arrangement beyond original order.

Series II: Educator: This series, 1957-1984, contains teaching and resource materials created and collected by Evans for university education on the topics of creative drama, children's theatre, arts advocacy and assessment. It contains: creative drama and children's theatre curricula and syllabi; correspondence; books, some heavily annotated; newsletters; professional journals and articles; position papers; hand and typewritten lecture and presentation notes; newspaper articles; colleague and student papers; and program reports. Of note are the materials on audience studies. There is no arrangement beyond original order.

Series III: Author: This series, 1945-1985, documents her numerous written works on creative drama, arts education, children's theatre and child audiences. It consists of: journal and periodical articles, book reviews, and editorials; newsletters, journals; and correspondence with publisher Orlin Corey and co-author Jed Davis regarding the book, Theatre, Children and Youth. Of note in the following Director series is the play typescript for The Rose and the Ring, an adaptation written by Evans. The series arrangement is chronological.

Series IV: Director: This series, 1953-1972, contains production materials of plays directed by Evans. It mostly consists of play programs, newspaper articles and reviews, posters, fliers, rehearsal schedules, production photographs, slides, and a few musical scores and play typescripts with revisions, a directors handbook and thank you notes. Of note is the play typescript for The Rose and the Ring, a novel adapted by Mary Jane Evans.


This collection consists of three boxes divided into four series:
Series I: Professional History
Series II: Educator
Series III: Author
Series IV: Director


Access Restrictions

To view this collection, make an appointment at least five business days prior to your visit by contacting Ask an Archivist or calling (480) 965-4932. Appointments in the Wurzburger Reading Room at Hayden Library (rm. 138) on the Tempe campus are available Monday through Friday. Check the ASU Library Hours page for current availability.


Arizona State University does not own the copyright to this collection. We recognize that it is incumbent upon the researcher to procure permission to publish information from this collection from the owner of the copyright.

Access Terms

Personal Name(s)
Evans, Mary Jane -- Archives.
Watkins, Mary Jane Larson.

Corporate Name(s)
California State University, Northridge. Department of Theatre.

Children's theatre -- Production and direction.
Children's theatre -- Study and teaching.
Creative drama -- Study and teaching.
Drama in education -- Study and teaching.
Teachers -- Training of.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Mary Jane Evans Papers, MSS-262, Arizona State University Library.


The Mary Jane Evans Papers were received from Mary Jane Evans in 1991 as recorded in accession number 2004-03546.

Processing Note

This collection was processed as part of a NHPRC ArchivesBasic ProjectsBasic Processing grant, which limits processing to the series and subseries level when needed and does not allow the creation of file or folder listings. The collection was processed by Anna Uremovich, NHPRC Project Archivist, Child Drama Collection, August 2009.