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Finding Aid to the Theatre Rhinoceros Records, 1968-2009, bulk 1981-2001
BANC MSS 2003/126 c  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Collection Summary
  • Information for Researchers
  • Administrative Information
  • Biographical Information
  • Scope and Content of Collection

  • Collection Summary

    Collection Title: Theatre Rhinoceros records
    Date (inclusive): 1968-2009,
    Date (bulk): bulk 1981-2001
    Collection Number: BANC MSS 2003/126 c
    Creators : Theatre Rhinoceros (San Francisco, Calif.)
    Extent: Number of containers: 26 cartons, 1 box and 2 oversize folders Linear feet: 33
    Repository: The Bancroft Library
    University of California, Berkeley
    Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
    Phone: (510) 642-6481
    Fax: (510) 642-7589
    Email: bancref@library.berkeley.edu
    URL: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/
    Abstract: The Theatre Rhinoceros records consist of Production files: materials related to productions, co-productions, benefits, proposed productions, theatre rental, award ceremonies, contests, and anniversaries/seasons; Playscripts: produced playscripts and correspondence, playscripts and other materials regarding submissions for consideration; Fundraising files: correspondence, applications for grants, and related materials; Staff files: correspondence and other materials of Artistic Directors, Associate Artistic Director, General Manger, and Secretary of the Board; Organization files: correspondence, agreements, contracts, leases, Board of Directors files, Facilities Committee files, press clippings, general staff files, and other organizational related materials; Chronological files: primarily Board of Directors minutes and other organizational files arranged chronologically; and Audio/Visual: materials documenting productions.
    Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
    Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.

    Information for Researchers

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 94720-6000. Consent is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. See: http://bancroft.berkeley.edu/reference/permissions.html. 
    Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Theatre Rhinoceros Records, BANC MSS 2003/126 c, The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.

    Alternate Forms Available

    There are no alternate forms of this collection.

    Related Collections

    Lanny Baugniet collection of Theatre Rhinoceros records and ephemera, 1977-1996 (bulk 1977-1986) (BANC MSS 2003/264 c).

    Separated Material

    Photographic prints, posters and slides transferred to the Pictorial Collections of The Bancroft Library (BANC PIC 2003.214).

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
    Theatre Rhinoceros (San Francisco, Calif.)--Archives
    Gay dramatists
    Gay theater--California--San Francisco
    Theater--California--San Francisco
    Lesbian dramatists
    Transsexuals--Drama
    Lesbian theater--California--San Francisco
    Bisexuals--Drama
    Estes, Allan B

    Administrative Information

    Acquisition Information

    The Theater Rhinoceros Records were purchased by The Bancroft Library on November 13, 2002.

    Accruals

    No additions are expected.

    System of Arrangement

    Arranged to the folder level.

    Processing Information

    Processed by Dean Smith in 2013.

    Biographical Information

    Theatre Rhinoceros was founded by Allan B. Estes, Jr. in 1977; the company based its name on the "Lavender Rhino" a media device popularized by the Boston gay community in the mid-70s and originally chosen as a mascot and symbol because it is a mild and peace-loving creature, until provoked.
    As its first Artistic Director, Estes guided the early years of the company by producing works that coupled political activism with theatrical expression and featured more experimental than mainstream productions. The first production presented under the name Theatre Rhinoceros was Gayhem: a Happening a performance installation staged in eight rooms of the Grove Street Gay Center over a two day period. Initially, no attempt was made to create a commercially viable theater; but the highly successful production The West Street Gang by Doric Wilson staged in The Black and Blue Bar, a San Francisco South of Market District leather bar, resulted in the impetus to move the company to its first permanent home in the Goodman Building on Geary Boulevard. Soon the theatre was producing full-length, long-run plays featuring gay New York playwrights, e.g. as Robert Patrick, Doric Wilson, Terrance McNally and Harvey Feirstein, and premiering and championing works by local gay playwrights C.D. Arnold, Cal Yeomans, Robert Cheasley and others. The company received tax-exempt status as a not-for-profit in the fall of 1978.
    In 1981 the theatre moved to its current location in the Redstone Building in the City's Mission District following four years of rapid and successful growth. Theatre Rhinoceros became the first gay theatre company to receive funding from the NEA and the first gay company in the U.S. to have a subscription season.
    1984 was marked by two profound events in the company's early history: the untimely death of Estes from AIDS and the subsequent premiere of the landmark production Artists Involved with Death and Survival: The A.I.D.S. Show. This was the first major theatrical production by any theater company nationally that dealt with the then very new and frightening epidemic. The A.I.D.S. Show directed by Leland Moss and Doug Holsclaw featured nearly twenty authors and brought Theatre Rhinoceros to national attention; the show ran for two years, toured the country and was the subject of a PBS documentary. Other important AIDS plays were to follow: Doug Holsclaw's Life of the Party, Leland Moss' Quisbies, Robert Pitman's Passing among others.
    Kristine (Kris) Gannon assumed the helm of Artistic Director upon Estes' death. Although initially founded as a theatre for gay males, the necessity of addressing the concerns of lesbians was foreseen by Estes. Gannon was instrumental in fulfilling this goal; she not only brought women into the employ of the Theatre, but broadened the scope of the plays presented to include women's concerns by introducing lesbian playwrights and performers to the stage with works by Pat Bond, Jane Chambers, Adele Prandini and others.
    In 1987, Gannon was succeeded by Kenneth R. Dixon, the Theatre's first African-American Artistic Director. Under Dixon's guidance the theatre broadened its vision of inclusiveness by incorporating persons of color within the LGBTQ community without losing sight of the company's original intention to create culture for, by, and about gays and lesbians. "As long as we live in a society that is racist and sexist, the need for minority theatre is clearly necessary," Dixon said. "It is the only way we can perpetuate the survival and growth of our distinct culture."
    Adele Prandini, originally employed by Theatre Rhinoceros in the mid-80s as a production manager before heading the playwrighting program, was hired as Artistic Director from 1991 through 1999. Under her tenure she continued the diversity and artistic quality of the programming. Prandini was also a community builder taking a very active role in partnering the Theatre with other arts organizations, e.g. Luna Sea, Teatro de la Esperanza, Black Artists Contemporary Cultural Experience, The Asian AIDS Project and the Latino/a AIDS Festival while also aggressively exploring arts funding opportunities.
    From 1999 through 2002, Artistic Director Doug Holsclaw negotiated a contract with Actor's Equity Association making Theatre Rhinoceros the first gay theater company to employ actors under a professional seasonal agreement. The company was recognized by the California State Assembly on its twenty-fifth anniversary and again as a pioneering organization at the twenty-fifth anniversary remembrance of slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk.
    Since 2002, Artistic Director John Fisher has brought his prodigious skills as a playwright, having earned a Ph.D. from U.C. Berkeley in 2001 in Dramatic Arts, to bear on the company; a number of his plays have premiered on Theatre Rhinoceros' stage. Fischer has also staged other critically acclaimed productions and presented productions on two separate occasions at the New York International Fringe Festival. In 2005 The Rhino co-produced, with the Tony Award-winning American Conservatory Theatre, the US premiere of Michel Marc Bouchard's Lilies.
    The 2007-2008 Season marked Theatre Rhinoceros's thirtieth anniversary. For this occasion the Theatre produced an Anniversary Show, being a medley of moments from past triumphs going all the way back to the first Rhino show Gayhem. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom presented Theatre Rhinoceros with the 2008 GLAAD Media Award for their "landmark work as the longest running professional queer theatre in the United States" at the GLAAD Awards ceremony in San Francisco.
    In 2009 Theatre Rhinoceros moved out of the Redstone Building in the Mission District and produced shows in four different theaters. In an exciting departure for The Rhino, these theatres were larger and all over the city, from the Eureka Theatre to Project Artaud.

    Scope and Content of Collection

    The Theatre Rhinoceros records consist of Production files: materials related to productions, co-productions, benefits, proposed productions, theatre rental, award ceremonies, contests, and anniversaries/seasons; Playscripts: produced playscripts and correspondence, playscripts and other materials regarding submissions for consideration; Fundraising files: correspondence, applications for grants, and related materials; Staff files: correspondence and other materials of Artistic Directors, Associate Artistic Director, General Manger, and Secretary of the Board; Organization files: correspondence, agreements, contracts, leases, Board of Directors files, Facilities Committee files, press clippings, general staff files, and other organizational related materials; Chronological files: primarily Board of Directors minutes and other organizational files arranged chronologically; and Audio/Visual: materials documenting productions.