BY FREDERICK H. KOCH
Founder of The Dakota Playmakers and The Carolina Playmakers
North Carolina has witnessed a surprising renaissance of the drama during the past twenty-three years. With the formation of The Carolina Playmakers in the fall of 1918 a new era began. Before that time, Barrett Clark avers, the entire state was stricken from the mailing list of Samuel French, publisher of plays, as a dead state in its dramatic interest--so dead, in fact, as not to warrant the postage necessary for the mailing of their play catalogues. And H. L. Mencken had dubbed the South "The Sahara of the Bozart!"
There was no stage suitable for theatrical entertainment on the campus of the University of North Carolina in 1918. The performances of the dramatic club were given in Gerrard Hall on a temporary platform built out over the first row of seats. It must have been hard going for the actors in those days. They had to don their costumes and make-up in the Y. M. C. A. building near by and clamber into Gerrard by way of a side window, then huddle together in the "wings" to await breathlessly their time to go on.
Under the circumstances it seemed advisable to begin our adventure in playmaking in the auditorium of the Chapel Hill graded school building some distance from the campus. There, with volunteer assistants, I designed and constructed a stage and proscenium, installed a curtain and homemade footlights, and produced the first CAROLINA FOLK PLAYS on March 14 and 15, 1919. The little homespun plays found an eager and lusty response.