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R. Russell Porter Papers

Identifier: M035


R. Russell Porter (1908-1995) served as Head of the University Theater and Chairman of the School of Communication Arts at the University of Denver from 1964 to 1976. In addition to his teaching and administrative functions, Porter wrote, directed, and produced plays, operas and radio dramas. He also acted in plays and radio dramas. Many of his artistic endeavors were librettos written with Normand Lockwood who was composer-in-residence at the University of Denver from 1959-1968. These collaborative works include: Land of Promise, a piano-vocal score (1960); Early Dawn, an Opera (1961); No More from Thrones (1962); The Wizard of Balzar, an Operetta for Children; The Hanging Judge, an opera (1964) written for the University of Denver Centennial celebration. Porter also wrote a play entitled, Shale Oil.

The materials in this collection document the professional life of R. Russell Porter. Administrative materials provide a chronological framework for the artistic works that follow. They include biographies, press releases and newspaper clippings, personnel records and evaluations, personal papers, photographs and correspondence.


  • 1933-1986


Biographical / Historical

Robert Russell Porter was born in Sterling, Kansas on November 20, 1908. His mother, Catherine (Cassie) Wiggins Porter, was a country schoolteacher and his father, Ellis Kenneth Porter, was a photographer and part-time farmer. They raised five sons. The eldest, Kenneth Wiggins Porter (1905-1981) was a well-known historian and poet. Russell Porter earned a B.S. in education from Emporia State Teachers College and an M.S. in speech from Northwestern University. From 1931 until his retirement, Porter was a teacher and practitioner of radio, television and theater arts. He wrote, performed, produced and directed countless plays, operas, and narrative poems. Porter received many honors from the University of Denver, the community and international theater organizations. Some of the most prestigious were his election as the seventh University of Denver Lecturer, an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the University of Denver, and the Colorado Governor's Award for Distinguished Service in Arts and Humanities.

He married Miriam Gilson Porter in 1932 and together they raised one daughter, Phyllida Theresa Porter, who was born in 1934. Miriam was also active in the radio and theater world as an actress. R. Russell Porter died on August 4, 1986. Miriam Porter continued living in Denver until her death in 1995.


7.5 Linear Feet (9 containers)

Scope and Contents

The materials in this collection document the professional life of R. Russell Porter while he was a member of the faculty of the University of Denver, from 1946 until his retirement in 1976. Administrative materials provide a chronological framework for the artistic works that follow. They include biographies, obituaries, press releases and newspaper clippings, faculty personnel records and evaluations, insurance packages, travel records, brochures, personal papers, interviews, photographs and correspondence. The papers and speeches reflect U.S. society at the time. One paper discusses the assassination of U. S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and another the concert at Woodstock, New York. Several concern race relations and the University's responsibility to equal opportunity. Many papers are concerned with the University, and how it could be positioned to successfully educate young people. Several address the current and future state of the American theater. The bulk of the material is composed of artistic works by Porter and others. In some cases, only the finished product is represented. In others, only a program, a press release or piece of correspondence documents the existence of a work. Several drafts of a play (Shale Oil) show the evolution of a particular creation. Early Dawn is particularly well documented, with drafts and correspondence between Porter and Normand Lockwood revealing how a librettist and a composer collaborate to create a work of art. The collection also includes works by Porter including scholarly articles, speeches, radio scripts, plays, and librettos along with documentation such as playbills, correspondence, publicity photographs, and newspaper clippings. The final segment of the collection includes plays by others to be considered for production at the University of Denver Theatre.


The collection is arranged into 5 series: Theatrical and Radio Scripts and Scores, DU Materials, Speeches, Acting Materials and Poetry, and Personal Materials.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Phyllida Porter, 2004 and 2005.


No further accruals are expected.

Related Materials

University of Denver Penrose Library – Theater Collection, University of Denver Penrose Library – Centennial Collection, University of Colorado, Music – Lockwood Collection, Denver Public Library – Score of “Inevitable Hour”

Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
(303) 871-3428