This collection contains materials relating to Auckland's amateur theatre scene between 1947 and 1982 collected by Professor Sydney Musgrove including souvenir programmes, photographs, newspaper clippings, producer's notebooks, wardrobe notebooks and posters. The bulk of the collection comprises ephemera from University of Auckland's theatre societies but also includes material from productions by the Auckland Drama Council, Auckland Repertory Theatre, and Theatre Guild (NZ) Ltd. There are also materials relating to productions staged outside New Zealand by the New England University College Drama Society (Australia) and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre (England). Other materials relate to Musgrove's involvement in Auckland's literary and music scene.
The collection focuses on the activities of Sydney Musgrove within the Auckland amateur theatre scene and reveals a rich history of amateur performance in Auckland. The collection highlights the aspiration for a professional theatre company of high standards despite monetary restraints. More specifically, it offers insight into Musgrove's vision as a producer and demonstrates the involvement of members of the wider Auckland art scene in the creation of these productions. The newspaper clippings reflect this aspect and provide reviews of the productions.
The collection has been divided into three series organised chronologically. This arrangement reveals the variety of the plays performed by dramatic societies in Auckland during the period covered by the collection. There is a mixture of classic and contemporary plays but with a focus on works set between the 13th and 15th Centuries.
Aside from being useful resources for the study of the Auckland theatre, the souvenir programmes highlight the typographical endeavours of Bob Lowry (1912-1963). A skilled printer, publisher and typographer with extensive knowledge of typography, Lowry was active between the 1940s and 1960s. He founded and primarily worked under Pelorus Press and Pilgrim Press but his name is associated with other presses. Lowry published works by figures in Auckland art and literary scene. The programmes in this collection illustrate his typographical talents and eye for detail.
The collection includes photography by prolific Auckland photographer and graphic designer, Clifton Firth (1904-1980). Firth was highly active between the 1930s and 1970s. He set up a photographic studio in Queen Street after graduating from Elam School of Art and photographed well-known Auckland identities. His photographs of Auckland's amateur theatre productions adopt his trademark style of dramatic lighting using black-and-white photography to recall an age of Hollywood theatrical glamour. Auckland Libraries holds an extensive collection with over 5,000 of his negatives.
The designs and costume work of Elam graduate Russell Craig are also represented in the series relating to the Outdoor Summer Shakespeare. Craig moved to England but continued his career in theatre design undertaking work for the Scottish Opera and the Royal Shakespeare Company.