Oxford Playhouse was opened in October 1923 by JB Fagan in premises called the Red Barn in the Woodstock Road. After a number of financial problems the Playhouse was reopened in its present premises in Beaumont Street by Eric Dance in October 1938. The Playhouse was closed temporarily in 1956 as a result of financial problems. However, the appointment of a new Administrator, Elizabeth Sweeting and the formation of a new resident company the Meadow Players created one of the most successful periods in the Playhouse's history. In 1961 Oxford University purchased the lease to the Playhouse, and it officially became the University Theatre. The University became responsible for the fabric, upkeep and costs of the building and the professional theatre staff. In 1963 the University undertook a major reconstruction programme of the theatre, which reopened in 1964. In 1976 Barry Sheppard became the new Administrator, and was involved in the creation of the Oxford Theatre Festival. He remained administrator until 1987 when the University terminated its lease of the Playhouse and the theatre closed. The theatre was reopened in 1991 after a successful fundraising campaign by the new Joint directors Hedda Beeby and Tish Francis. In 2008 a new administrator, Michelle Dickson, was appointed.
The records in this catalogue relate to the Oxford Playhouse as one organisation, and all the performances that took part there. The records mostly date from the time that the university took over the management of the theatre. There are management, administration and financial records, and records relating to the artists and exhibitions displayed in the Exhibition Room and the various fund raising appeals. There are a number of records relating to the redevelopment of the playhouse, and in particular the support and funding given by Richard Burton to build the Richard Burton Drama Studio, now known as the Burton-Taylor rooms. The most sizable part of the collection is the publicity material with many programmes, posters and photographs relating to individual productions that have been performed over the years.
The material relating to other organisations that used the Playhouse have been catalogued together as O28. This includes the Oxford Playhouse Company O28/1, The Oxford University Dramatic Society (O28/2) the Oxford Music Theatre O28/3, the Oxford Theatre Festival O28/4 and The Observer Festival of Theatre O28/5. They have been catalogued separately from the main Playhouse collection to reflect they are different organisations. However, they have been catalogued together to show their involvement with the Playhouse and highlight the different roles the theatre has played.
The records were deposited at Oxfordshire Record Office as Acc 3632 in March 1993, Acc 3833 in July 1994, Acc 3996 in July 1995, Acc 4013 in September 1995, Acc 4022 in September 1995, Acc 4077 in April 1996, Acc 4079 in April 1996, Acc 4473 in March 1999, Acc 4800 in January 2001, Acc 5429 in August 2005, Acc 6231 in December 2013, Acc 6232 in November 2013, Acc 6256 in March 2014, Acc 6325 in September 2014 and Acc 6574 in May 2017.
Catalogued by Samantha Crossley and Alison Smith between 2003 and November 2008 with additions in October 2014. Additional work on the programmes by Margaret Draper.