FRIENDS AND CONNECTIONS: Kelly Yeaton, The Father Of Arena Theater In America - The Great Gaming House
It was the Game Of Life. Built on an epic scale. A night of a hundred interconnected theaters. One of the largest interactive live-experience immersive theater events of all time! Thousands of square feet of experience-theater that you walked through and interacted with.
The event is legenday. The participants are world reknown. It was a magical once-in-a-lifetime coming together of art, creative genius and conceptual theater! Kelly was the inspiration for this project and he taught us new insights into conceptual art and experience.
"I spent a number of evenings discussing the process of experience with Kelly. The gift he gave me will live with me forever..."
Yeaton Family papers, 1922-2001
|Yeaton Family papers|
|Kelly Yeaton was an Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at Pennsylvania State University, 1947-1979, where he specialized in the development and production of arena theater. This collection contain materials related to Yeaton's theater work.|
|12 Cubic feet|
|Some materials stored off-site. Allow three days advance notice to use the materials. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the library catalog.|
|Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.|
Professor of Theatre Arts Kelly Yeaton taught at Penn Sate University from 1947 until his retirement in 1979. His area of specialty was in the development and production of arena theatre. In addition to teaching, he has also been involved with theatrical production across the country, and has authored numerous articles and books. Born in Portland, Maine, Yeaton received his Bachelor's degree from Tufts University in 1932, and his Masters from the University of Washington at Seattle in 1938. His studies also took him to Fordham and the American Theater Wing of Bates College.
As an instructor at Penn State, Yeaton taught courses in theatre management, educational theatre, acting directing, center-staging, and radio drama. He was responsible for instituting general education requirements in arts, as well as supervising courses in theatre arts and film. Also, his accomplishments include creating Penn State's Centre Stage, and being Professor and head of the Experimental Theatre, a research and development branch of the Theatre and Film Department. Yeaton's areas of special interest and research included the process of rehearsals in acting and directing, and exploring concepts of the use of space. His interests in arena and experimental theatre involved him in many projects throughout the Northeast and into the Midwest. He directed and advised at numerous theatres including: the Erie Playhouse; the Little Theatre in Lafayette, Indiana; the Millbrook Playhouse in Mill Hall; the Mummers in St. Louis; the Ogunquit Playhouse in Ogunquit, Maine; the Standing Stone Playhouse in Petersburg. These interests are also reflected in numerous articles which appeared in trade journals such as Players Magazine and the standard reference book of theatre, John Gassner's Arena Theatre.
The 1953 edition of Gassner's Producing the Play includes the chapter Arena Production which was written and illustrated by Kelly Yeaton. Arena and experimental theatre were two of Yeaton's major interests, but a plethora of technical, methodological, psychological, and tangential information is present in the collection as well. Much of this information is contained in the correspondence files. Although a large portion of the correspondence is labeled personal, many of the letters are to or from people involved with theatre and contain information relevant to researchers of both theatre arts and Yeaton's professional career. samuel yeatonIn addition to his personal and professional papers, Kelly Yeaton also donated a collection of personal papers belonging to his brother Samuel.
Samuel S. Yeaton was born in Portland Maine, in 1907. After attending Bates College he joined the US Navy and attended the academy at Annapolis, MD. He graduated in 1930 and after various assignments in America, his active duty assignments took him to Shanghai, China. In 1935, Samuel Yeaton returned to America for active duty and further training. He served with the Fourth Marine Raider Battalion during the second World War, after which he returned to the United States, working in various jobs. Samuel S. Yeaton retired as a Lieutenant Colonel, USMC and later served as head of training in Maine's Civil Defense forces. Much of the materials of this subgroup pertain to Samuel's military career and his related interests. The latter include his involvement and research into small arms and competition shooting. He participated in many shooting competitions, both while in the military and as a civilian. Also of interest to him was hand-to-hand combat, including knife fighting. While serving in China, he researched and helped develop fighting techniques and a combat knife. This research was apparently done in conjunction with the Shanghai Police Department and its advisors, notably William Fairbairn, William Cassidy, and Samuel Moore.
Scope and Contents
The collection contains the theater-related papers of Kelly Yeaton including his involvement with commedia, experimental theater, and arena theater; class notes; scripts written by students, colleagues, and acquaintances; business and personal correspondence, mostly theater-related; and photographs, slides, drawings, tapes, and microfilm of theater activities and family.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
[Identification of item], Yeaton Family papers, PSUA 748, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.
Processed by Special Collections staff.
Existence and Location of Copies
There are digital surrogates available for some materials.
April 21, 1911 - February 10, 2005
Kelly Yeaton April 21, 1911 - February 10, 2005 Kelly Yeaton, educator and noted arena theatre authority, died at age 93 on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2005, at Mount Nittany Medical Center. He was born Charles Kendall Yeaton on April 21,1911, in Portland, Maine, to Arthur and Ella Sylvester (Adams) Yeaton. He married Ruth Marie Lyne, of Erie, on April 7, 1955. Ruth survives with their son Michael, of Tyrone, their daughter Carol L. Hartman, of Centennial, Colo., and six grandchildren. He received his BA degree from Tufts University and his MA from the University of Washington in Seattle. He served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II as a radio operator and instructor. After the war, Kelly continued to work and study in theatre arts. It was while he worked with Glenn Hughes at the famed Penthouse Theatre in Seattle that he came in contact with arena or theatre-in-the-round staging. He continued his studies and work experience at the American Theatre Wing in New York City. While there, he studied with Lee Simonson, designer; Lee Strasburg, group theatre teacher and director; Lincoln Kirstein, American Ballet; and Alan Schneider, director of The Playwrights Company and Arena Theatre, Washington, D.C. At that time, he became a member of the theatrical union called Equity. Before joining the Penn State theatre arts faculty, he was employed as drama instructor and dean of students at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research in New York City. During his tenure at the university, Kelly was acknowledged as a leading world authority on the development and production of arena theatres. He authored nearly half of the technical articles on arena theatre printed in the United States. His extended works on acting as well as arena techniques include "Memorization by Analysis," "A Plan for Acting," "The Most Human Art," and "Arena Production" in John Gassner's theatre reference book "Producing the Play." He contributed technical and informative articles to many theatre publications, such as the Encyclopedia Americana, Encyclopedia della Specttacolo, Dramatics Magazine, Theatre Arts, Educational Theatre Journal and the Tulane Drama Review. He originated and developed the Experimental Theatre at Penn State, which allowed him to explore new performance structures and acting techniques. These experiments were used in some of the plays that he directed, such as: "Moby Dick Rehearsed," "The Knack," "The Sport of My Mad Mother," "MoonChildren," "Fitz" and "Jim Dandy." He also organized and directed an acting company consisting of four actors, a technical-designer and a makeup-costumer. Known as The Arts Company, it performed an assortment of dramatic scenes for various historical or cultural periods in the theatre. It became a "live" visual aid and thus an enhanced teaching tool or method as an introduction to all phases of theatrical expression. This company is still in use in the theatre arts department at Penn State. While at Penn State, he taught acting, directing, and arena production. He not only introduced "theatre-in-the-round" to the community, but he was also the first in the country to use "sound-in-the-round" in arena theatres. Some of his directing credits include: The Stowe Repertory Theatre, in Stowe, Vt.; Orangeburg Circle Theatre, in Orangeburg, N.Y.; Standing Stone Playhouse, in Standing Stone; Erie Playhouse, Erie; Mummers of St. Louis; Little Theatre of Lafayette, Ind., as well as many productions at Penn State. While at Penn State, he assisted in establishing the Green Hills Playhouse in Reading, the Boal Barn Playhouse in Boalsburg and the Millbrook Playhouse in Mill Hall. He not only introduced arena theatre to Penn State but was the driving force behind the founding of the Pavilion Theatre in the mid-1960s. Kelly's dedication to the development of community theatres did not go unnoticed. He was elected to the board of directors of the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA) and served a three-year term as regional representative to the ANTA Board. Former members who have served in this capacity are Brooks Atkinson, Helen Hayes, Richard Rogers, Raymond Massey, Sam Jaffee, Lee Simonson, Robert Edmond Jones and Robert Sherwood, among others. In addition to his many notable contributions to the theatre, Kelly enjoyed camping, sailing, gardening (he saved heirloom seeds), photography, airbrush painting, and theatrical mask-making. After retirement with the rank of professor emeritus, he traveled; wrote food articles with his wife Ruth, for the Centre Daily Times; experimented with winemaking; and inspired by his brother, a retired Marine officer, Kelly published a book about a special knife designed by his brother for guerrilla warfare and used by the U.S. Marines for training overseas. His interests in life never faltered, as there was always something to examine or explore. The family would like to thank the nurses of Home Hospice of Clearfield and the staff of Greenhills Village Retirement and Assisted Living for their friendship and loving care for Kelly during his extended stay there. There will be no public visitation at this time and in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the School of Theatre Arts Reading Room, in care of Penn State, University Park, PA 16802.