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About this collection

Wisconsin's oldest theatre organization, the Carroll Players, was inaugurated in June 1896 with a production of Bulwer Lyton’s “Richelieu,” performed at the Silurian Casino in Waukesha. The play, and the group, were directed by May Nickell Rankin, daughter of the second president of Carroll College, Walter Rankin. May was also the head of the Department of Oratory at Carroll, which, in 1911, she transformed into the Department of Interpretation and Dramatic Literature, which included courses in public speaking, dramatic art, and dramatic literature. The Carroll Players are still in existance today, proudly carrying on the tradition of the stage that May Rankin supported.

Under Rankin's direction, the Carroll Theater program developed and flourished, and eventually produced graduates including Alfred Lunt, who, with wife Lynne Fontanne, has a Broadway theater named in his honor. A museum and theatre center has been established at their former estate, Ten Chimneys, in Genesee Depot, Wisconsin.

May Rankin in costume and modern theater schene May Rankin was born in 1868, and attended Carroll College Academy from 1881-1887, graduating as valedictorian. After her graduation, she attended Milwaukee College (later to become Milwaukee Downer Seminary) before returning to Carroll to start her teaching career in 1888.

She later graduated from Boston's Emerson College School of Oratory, as well as earning her BA from Carroll in 1905. After creating the Department of Interpretation and Dramatic Literature in 1911, Rankin directed and taught many students who would go on to careers on stage and screen. This includes stage and movie actor Alfred Lunt, as well as movie actor Dennis Morgan, both Carroll graduates.

May Rankin passed away Feb. 28, 1931 in Milwaukee.


One of her students, Dr. Milner, once remarked of her, that"All the success I have had as
a teacher I can trace back to one of my first instructors, Miss May Rankin, at Carroll College in Waukesha." (Historical Material About May Nickell Rankin: Carroll College 1888-1930 Scrapbook; compiled by Adela Rankin)

Digitization Notes The Theatre Collection includes digitized photographs, as well as notes and letters from May Rankin, Alfred Lunt, and others involved in the drama program. Please note in digitizing hand written documents, items had to be transcribed in order to make them keyword searchable. Due to paper condition and handwriting some words were difficult to decipher and have been marked by sqare brackets.

Collection Use The May Rankin Theatre Collection is free to use for educational and research purposes. We ask that all information retreived from this site be properly cited. Mass reproductions of the collection are strictly prohibited. For photo reproduction or publishing permission you must receive written permission from the Carroll University Archives. For more information see see our orders and copyright policy.

Citing the Collection (Chicago\Turabian Style) [Document/photograph], [date(s)]. May Rankin Theater Collection, in the Carroll University Digital Collections, http://content-dm.carrollu.edu (accessed [date]).

Collection Contributors
Brittany Bayer, Learning Commons Assistant
Amelia Osterud, Web Services Librarian
Katie Sanders, Archivist
 
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