Paul Bruce Pettit (1920-1972) was a professor of theatre and the first chair of the Department of Theatre at the University at Albany, 1947-1972.
Pettit was born in Greensburg, Indiana, on July 9, 1920. After completing high school at The Principia in Saint Louis, Missouri, he attended and received a Bachelor of Arts (1942) in English from Alfred University in Alfred, New York. Immediately following his graduation Pettit enrolled in graduate school at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, where he became involved in the vibrant theatre arts community. Pettit earned a Master of Arts (1943) and a Doctor of Philosophy (1949) from Cornell.
Though their marriage did not last, E. Bernice "Bunny" Pettit (nee Minkler) was very involved in Dr. Pettit's professional life while they were together, often collaborating on projects or accompanying him to events. She also mothered their two children, Alexander Drummond and Faith Caldwell Pettit.
Dr. Pettit was appointed to the faculty at New York State College for Teachers in 1947 in the combined English and Dramatic Arts Department and remained employed at the institution until his death. After the college became the State University of New York at Albany, he was instrumental in the forming of the Department of Speech and Dramatic Arts and fostered the evolution into the Department of Theatre which he initially chaired. As a professor of theatre, he was actively involved in the American Educational Theatre Association (AETA). After returning from a Fulbright Scholarship in Greece (1950-51) where he directed the Athens Players, and with a renewed interest in arena theater, Pettit founded the Arena Summer Theatre at the university in 1952. Dr. Pettit traveled extensively, particularly in the Mediterranean, on various grants and Fulbright Scholarships. In 1964 Dr. Pettit and his family were among hundreds of Americans evacuated from the strife-torn island of Cyprus during the escalating Greek-Turkish conflicts. Until the struggle made his work there impossible, Dr. Pettit had served as American advisor and director of the Greek-Cypriot National Theatre in Nicosia, Cyprus.
Drawing on his cultural background, Dr. Pettit was often called on to contribute to the surrounding community as a subject expert. From 1947-1949, WROW radio featured Dr. Pettit as an entertainment critic. He provided a start-up for Albany Civic Theater and served as president of the Albany League of Arts working directly with the New York State Council on the Arts. In his capacity as president of the Albany League of Arts, Dr. Pettit proposed and advocated for the building of a Cultural Arts Center for the City of Albany.
In 1971, while on leave from the university, Dr. Pettit served as Visiting University Fellow and director of program development in the fine arts for the newly established Empire State College. Prior to returning to his teaching post at the university in 1972, Dr. Pettit died of a heart attack in his home. He was 52 years old.
The information provided above was gleaned from the following sources, in addition to those found in the Paul Bruce Pettit Papers themselves:
This collection documents Dr. Paul Bruce Pettit's professional life as a researcher, professor, and arts administrator. Materials in the collection include folders that contain correspondence, academic papers and other samplings of work that Dr. Pettit produced while enrolled in graduate programs (M.A. and Ph.D.) at Cornell University, 1942-43 and 1947-49 respectively. Besides three bound copies of printed scripts from his radio broadcasts of theatrical reviews, 1947-1948, there are also copies of his master's thesis and doctoral dissertation, The Important American Dramatic Types to 1900: A Study of the Yankee, Negro, Indian, and Frontiersman, 1949.
Correspondence, offprints of articles about theater related subjects, plays and reviews, and lecture notes from Dr. Pettit's tenure as a professor of theatre at the University at Albany (known as New York State College for Teachers at the time of hire) are also part of the collection, 1947-72.
Additionally, there is material from within this time frame that includes a bound copy of his play A Night from a Thousand Nights and a Night translated into Arabic, and presented while directing the National Theatre in Cyprus as part of a Fulbright scholarship, 1964-1965. Writings in the collection from the era and clippings give an account of Dr. Pettit's and other Americans evacuation from Cyprus when a Turkish invasion appeared eminent. There are other newspaper clippings chronicling Dr. Pettit's accomplishments throughout his life.
The majority of the file names are names that Dr. Pettit assigned them based on handwritten or typed labels the archivist found on the original folders in the collection. If there was no label indicating the file's name, the archivist chose a name based on the subject of the records. All the files are arranged chronologically. Within the files, items are arranged based on the year of their creation.
Related collections in the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives include the records of the Department of Theatre (UA-609) and the Jarka M. Burian Papers, (UA-902.017).
The collection is organized chronologically. There are no series.
The Department of Theatre donated the Paul Bruce Pettit Papers in 1973 and 1978.
Processed by: W. Dan Johnson
Collection record created by: This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on
Published: 2018-03-06 02:48:06 -0500
Encoded in EAD by W. Dan Johnson, 2014
Archival materials can be view in-person during business hours in our reading room, located on the top floor of the Science Library on the Uptown Campus.
We can also deliver digital scans for remote research for a fee.
Access to this collection is unrestricted with the exception of one file noted on the inventory.
The researcher assumes full responsibility for conforming with the laws of copyright. Whenever possible, the M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives will provide information about copyright owners and other restrictions, but the legal determination ultimately rests with the researcher. Requests for permission to publish material from this collection should be discussed with the Head of Special Collections and Archives.
Preferred citation for this material is as follows:
Identification of specific item, series, box, folder, Paul Bruce Pettit Papers, 1938-1972. M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University at Albany, State University of New York (hereafter referred to as the Pettit Papers).
|1||1||Personal Records||1938, 1942-1945, 1955-1958|
|1||2||Pettit Photographs||1938, Undated|
|1||3||"The Director: A Study in Responsibilities"||1942|
|1||4||"Analysis ofA Night at an Inn"||1942|
|1||5||"Analysis ofA Night at an Inn"||1942|
|1||6||Walt Disney's Dumbo||1942|
|1||7||Paper on Tragedy||1943|
|1||9-11||"The Showboat Theatre: The Development of the Showboat on the Mississippi River and on the Eastern Waterways" (draft copy)||1943|
|1||12-13||"The Showboat Theatre: The Development of the Showboat on the Mississippi River and on the Eastern Waterways" (copy)||1943|
|1||14||Personal Correspondence||1943, 1945-1950, 1952, 1956, 1962|
|1||15||The Cornell Widow||1944, 1947, Undated|
|1||18||"Notes and Footnotes on John Rogers, N.A."||1946|
|1||19||"Carpet of Lace"||1946|
|1||20||"Blue Ribbons for Betsy"||ca. 1946|
|1||21||"Modern Staging"||ca. 1946|
|1||22||Speaking Engagements and Writings||1947, 1950, 1953-1954, 1956-1963, Undated|
|1||23||Professional Papers||1947-1951, 1953, 1955-1957, 1961|
|1||24||WROW Radio (Albany, NY)||1947-1948, Undated|
|Oversized 1||WROW Radio (Albany, NY), Pettit Radio Scripts||1947-1948|
|1||25||WROW (Albany, NY), Pettit Radio Scripts||1948|
|1||26||Showboats (Philip Graham) Correspondence||1948-1949|
|1||27-31||"The Important American Dramatic Types to 1900: A Study of the Yankee, Negro, Indian, and Frontiersman" (manuscript copy)||1949|
|1||32-35||"The Important American Dramatic Types to 1900: A Study of the Yankee, Negro, Indian, and Frontiersman" (library copy)||1949, 1971|
|1||36||"The Renaissance and the Commedia dell' Arte"||1949|
|1||37-38||Theatre Dept. Papers Submitted to P. B. Pettit-[RESTRICTED]||1950, 1952-1953, 1959-1961, Undated|
Conditions Governing Access
Must consult archivist before viewing this material.
|2||1||"Staff, Present: Pettit, Paul Bruce"||1951-1972|
|2||2||"Greece Through the Stage Door," Offprint Article, Correspondence||1951-1952|
|2||3||American University at Cairo||1951-1952, 1956-1957|
|2||5||Smith, C. D. (Duryea), Alfred University||1952-1955, 1957|
|2||7||"Arena Theatre is the Answer"||1953|
|2||8||American Educational Theatre Association (AETA)||1953-1956, 1963|
|2||9||Albany Civic Theatre||1955, Undated|
|2||10||AETA: Teacher Training Project||1956-1959, Undated|
|2||11||AETA Project Reports (other than teacher training)||1956-1957, 1961|
|2||12||Slingerlands Community Players||1958|
|2||13||Tragedy and Comedy (Lectures)||1959|
|2||14||"A Life Full Lived"||1959|
|2||16||"Theatre for Today's School"||1960|
|2||17||Religious Drama: 1st Church in Albany. Talk. 9/20/61.||1961|
|2||18||Albany League of Arts: New York State Council on the Arts Conference, Binghamton||1961|
|2||19||Albany League of Arts: New York State Council on the Arts||1961-1962|
|2||20||"New Horizons for the Theatre in Your Community"||1961|
|2||21||The Ministry of Education and National GuidanceA Night from a Thousand Nights and a Night||1961|
|2||22||Bethlehem Central School District: Committee for Study of Utilization of Elementary School Facilities (PBP sub-com. Report)||1961|
|3||1-2||Bethlehem Central School District: Committee for Study of Utilization of Elementary School Facilities||1961-1963|
|3||3||RE: Bertolt Brecht, Correspondence with Holly Beye Ruff||1962-1963|
|3||4||Fredonia lecture, 7/25/63. "The Crab on the Clock without Hands"||1963|
|3||5||Newspaper Clippings (Subject: Cyprus)||1963-1965|
|3||6||"Towards a National Theatre for the Republic of Cyprus"||1964|
|3||7||Fulbright Scholarship - Cyprus and Syria||1964|
|3||8||"The Middle-aged Theatre and the New, New U"||1965|
|3||9||Newspaper Clippings||1965-1967, 1969, 1971|
|3||10||"Ala-Ed-Din, the Caliph, and the Dreadful Magician"||1971|
|3||11||Székely, György (George)||1971-1972|
|3||12||Albany Civic Theatre||1972|
|3||13||Pettit - Sabbatical||1972|