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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 719: T-475: Vt-250

Papers of Sophie Parker, 1981-1995


Grant applications, financial records, theater festival programs, clippings, audio- and videotapes of Sophie Parker, director of the Women in Theatre festival in Boston, Massachusetts.


  • 1981-1995

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Sophie Parker is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


7.51 linear feet ((18 file boxes) plus 2 folio+ folders, 2 oversize folders, 1 supersize folder, 2 audiotapes, 6 videotapes, electronic records)

The collection documents the Women in Theatre Festival held in Boston, Massachusetts, and includes applications to the festival; festival programs; publicity; posters; plays; flyers; grant applications; reviews; financial records; and video and audiotapes. Some material on the Next Stage Theatre and on Sophie Parker's work as a clown is also included. The bulk of the folder headings were created by the archivist; those created by Sophie Parker appear in quotation marks. Parker's business consultancy web site is being captured periodically as part of Harvard University Library's Web Archive Collection (WAX).

Series I, ADMINISTRATION, PROGRAM PLANNING, AND APPLICATIONS, ca.1983-1995 (#1.1-13.6, E.1), is arranged in the following groupings: Administration, Applications, Correspondence, Plays, and Program Planning, with each group arranged alphabetically. Administrative material (#1.1-2.7) includes Watermelon Studio's articles of organization, by-laws, mission statement, and organizational chart (#1.2) Next Stage Theatre's mission statement (#1.17); mailing lists (#1.15); box office material (#1.5); contracts for groups performing at the Women in Theatre Festival (#1.6, 1.8), and the exhibition agreement for Judy Chicago's Birth Project (#1.9-1.11). Applications (#2.8-6.16) includes applications to the festival, many including correspondence, photographs of performers, and other background material on the artists and plays; some folders include budgets, contracts, and related correspondence for accepted applications. Applicants include the Sistren Theatre Collective (#5.16-5.17), a Jamaican group; the Vusisizwe Players (#6.6-6.11), a South African group; and the Charabanc Theatre Company (#2.24), an Irish troupe; and performance troupes and individual performers from across the U.S. The applications are arranged alphabetically by artist or theater group. Correspondence (#6.17-7.12) includes Parker's correspondence with other theater groups, with Festival participants and attendees, and with the press, including her letter to Gay Community News re: criticism of the Festival (#6.17). Also of note is a letter protesting the Festival's change of name from the Women's Theatre Festival to the Women in Theatre Festival (#7.1). Plays (#7.13-12.2) consists of a sampling of the scripts of plays considered for performance at the festival. Program Planning material (#12.3-13.6) includes readers' reports, evaluating submitted plays (#12.13); programs from and correspondence and notes re: theater festivals and conferences Parker attended both in the U.S. and abroad (#12.3-12.5, 12.9-12.11, 13.5-13.6); prospectuses for Women in Theatre Festivals (#13.3); material re: proposed Festival panels (#12.16-12.17); and correspondence and notes re: programming for both Next Stage Theatre and the Women in Theatre Festival (#12.12, 12.1512.18-13.2).

Series II, GRANTS AND FINANCIAL, 1981-1991 (#13.7-17.21, F+D.1, OD.2, SD.1), contains grant applications, final reports, and correspondence with funding organizations; many applications also include background material. Some grants were for general funding for the Festival, while others were intended to support particular theatrical groups, such as Charabanc, Sistren, and Vusisizwe Players. The Festival frequently obtained funding from the Massachusetts Council on the Arts and Humanities, but also applied to a variety of funding organizations, ranging from Bank of Boston to the Ford Foundation. The series also includes tax returns, financial statements, and budget information. It is arranged alphabetically.

Series III, PUBLICITY, 1984-1994 (#17.22-18.22, F+D.2, OD.1), includes press releases announcing the Women in Theatre Festival, festival programs and brochures, reviews, ads and other publicity, articles about the Festival, flyers, posters, and brochure drafts, advertising information, and material re: flyer design. Some Electra Festival and Next Stage Theatre programs (#17.24, 17.28), posters for Parker's clown act (#F+D.2), and reviews of a play in which she performed (#18.1) are also included. The series is arranged alphabetically.

Series IV, AUDIOVISUAL, 1984-1989, n.d. (#T-475.1 - T-475.2, Vt-250.1 - Vt-250.6), includes audio- and videotapes of women in Theatre Festival performances (including Dark Cowgirls and Prairie Queens), playwriting and producers panels, and the Electra Festival. It is arranged alphabetically.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].


Sophie Parker was born on May 26, 1952. She studied at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, and at the City Literary Institute in London, England, receiving her B.A. in 1974. She was artistic director and a founding member of Clowns Around, a touring company staging productions for children, and in 1983 she and Tita Wernimont co-founded Watermelon Studio, Inc. (later Next Stage Theatre), a theatrical company providing a venue in which local women theater professionals could present original work. In 1984, in response to research indicating that only 7% of the productions in major regional theaters were written by women, Watermelon Studio began planning a festival to further showcase the work of women playwrights and performers. The first Boston Women's Theatre Festival was held in 1985 and included work by women from the United States and Europe. The following year the festival was renamed the Women in Theatre Festival, and its focus soon expanded to include women in dance, music, and the visual arts, and to bring women's art to a broader public by providing networks and resources for women involved in art at all levels. In 1987, Watermelon Studio began programming year-round, holding the first annual Electra Festival, co-produced with the Double Edge Theatre of Brighton, Massachusetts, in January, 198. This festival featured eight internationally acclaimed women performers in experimental dance and theater. Watermelon Studio also arranged an American tour by the South African group the Vusisizwe Players. The Women in Theatre Festival and Next State Theatre disbanded in the 1990s and Parker later established a business consultancy business focusing on organizational assessment and change management.


The collection is arranged in four series:

  1. Series I. Administration, program planning, and applications, ca.1983-1995 (#1.1-13.6, E.1)
  2. Series II. Grants and financial, 1981-1991 (#13.7-17.21, F+D.1, OD.2, SD.1)
  3. Series III. Publicity, 1984-1994 (#17.22-18.22, F+D.2, OD.1)
  4. Series IV, Audiovisual,1984-1989, n.d. (#T-475.1 - T-475.2, Vt-250.1 - Vt-250.6)

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2000-M178

The papers of Sophie Parker were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sophie Parker in November 2000.

Processing Information

Processed: November 2012

By: Susan Earle with the assistance of Suzanna Calev.

Parker, Sophie. Papers of Sophie Parker, 1981-1995: A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by a gift from the Radcliffe College Class of 1957.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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