Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute

History of The Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute

Auntie Mame poster
Auntie Mame poster

Founded in 1951 as the Ohio State University Theatre Collection, the original Theatre Research Institute collection consisted of microfilm rather than original materials and engaged researchers in more than 100 European museums and libraries to compile bibliographies of rare theatrical material unique to their institutions.

From the researchers' contributions and his own surveys, Dr. John McDowell, the Institute's founding director, built a collection of 450,000 frame microfilm archives of theatre history of the Western world -- from Medieval to Modern unduplicated anywhere in the United States containing copies of rare documents, promptbooks, posters, playbills, and costume and scene designs with especially strong holdings from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, England, and the United States.

Original materials such as manuscript collections, theatre and dance company archives, scripts, scene and costume designs scrapbooks, painted drops, costumes, models reconstructing important theatrical and technical devices are found here along with clippings of reviews and articles, journals, books, programs, posters, photographs, and brochures


McDowell's legacy became the core of one of the nation's premiere graduate programs in theatre study. To provide better research opportunities, McDowell added an annual journal, which became Theatre Studies, in 1954. Circulated to libraries and scholars on every continent. From 1987 until 2001 Theatre Studies was a national journal for graduate students with a distinguished editorial board accepting articles on a competitive basis.

From the 1970s on, the Institute has conducted occasional theatre history conferences. The conferences have attracted scholars nationwide and have brought several important collections to the Institute. Conference topics have ranged from Shakespearean performance to the plays of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, to images of race in American theatre.

In 1986 the Theatre Research Institute was renamed in honor of Ohio-born playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, and became affiliated with University Libraries at which time Nena L. Couch was hired as Curator. Dr. Alan Woods was the Director from 1979 until he retired from that position in 2009. In 2006 the position of Associate Curator was created and Dr. Beth Kattelman took over those duties that same year. In 2019 the position of Curator of Dance was created and Mara Frazier was hired to fill that role. In 2020 Couch moved into another administrative role with the libraries, so Kattelman stepped into the role of Curator of TRI.

Below is a list of all the Curators and Directors who have been associated with the Theatre Research Institute:

Dr. Beth Kattelman   Curator of TRI       2020 - present
    Associate Curator/Curator of Theatre   2006 - 2020
Mara Frazier   Curator of Dance   2019 - present
Nena Couch   Curator of TRI   1986 - 2020
Jeanine Thompson   Director of TRI   2019 - present
Mary Tarantino   Director of TRI   2009-2019
Dr. Alan Woods     Director of TRI     1979-2009