A Guide to the Mary Sue Jones Papers, 1931-1992 (Bulk: 1949-1992)
Actress, director, and designer Mary Sue Birkhead Fridge Jones was born on August 24, 1930 in Carthage, Missouri. She entered Baylor University in 1948 as an art student but eventually found her way to the Theater Department under Paul Baker. She received a Master's in Drama in 1955 from Baylor. Mary Sue began student teaching in 1954 and became an integral part of the Paul Baker teaching team. She taught acting and design at Baylor and later followed Baker in his move to Trinity University, where she was an assistant professor.
Mary Sue was present at the founding of the Dallas Theater Center in 1959 and was made assistant director of the facility. She starred in many Dallas Theater Center productions, winning Dallas's Billy Award in 1963 as best actress for her performance in Sister. Some of her other starring roles at the Dallas Theater Center were in The Taming of the Shrew, Medea, and A Streetcar Named Desire. She was costume and set designer for Julius Caesar, Journey to Jefferson, Macbeth and Marat-Sade to mention only a few. In the 1980s, Baker promoted Mary Sue to associate artistic director and then co-artistic director. Baker, forced to resign from the Dallas Theater Center by the Board of Trustees in 1982, picked Mary Sue as his successor. The Board appointed her interim artistic director until Adrian Hall was hired to fill the position in 1983. Mary Sue then moved to Santa Fe as artist in residence at the College of Santa Fe, where she taught acting and directed at the Greer Garson Theater Center. In 1988, she was made a full time faculty member of the college.
Mary Sue's first marriage was to Roy Fridge, an artist who also created posters for the Dallas Theater Center. Mary Sue divorced Fridge on January 23, 1964 after a long separation. She married Preston Jones on September 7, 1964. Mary Sue Jones died in Santa Fe June 27, 1992.
Mary Sue's papers are divided into two series: 1. Texas records; 2. New Mexico records. They span the years from 1931 to 1992 with most of the material dating from the 1960s through the 1980s. Contained here are class notes, scripts, set designs, costume designs, playbills, letters, photographs, records, audiotapes, reports, clippings, magazines, articles, awards, school records, yearbooks, scrapbooks, personal effects, and mementos. The Texas series contains three subseries: Education and Teaching; Acting, Design, and Directing; and Dallas Theater Center Administration.
The first subseries of the Texas files presents information on Mary Sue's education at Baylor University and her teaching of acting and design at both Baylor and Trinity Universities. The second offers a good deal of information on Mary Sue's career as actor, director, and designer at the Dallas Theater Center. The third subseries covers Mary Sue's work as assistant artistic director to Paul Baker and is especially informative on the state of affairs during the transfer of the directorship at the Dallas Theater Center from Paul Baker to Adrian Hall.
The New Mexico series is arranged into four subseries: Teaching and Directing, Paul Baker Festival, Production and Script Files, and Personal. The first subseries provides information on Mary Sue's work as artist-in-residence, and later as a faculty member at the College of Santa Fe. The second centers on the career of Paul Baker, especially at the Dallas Theater Center, and documents the 1990 festival organized by his former students to honor him. The third subseries is Mary Sue's collection of scripts or production files including many of the plays performed at the Dallas Theater Center. The fourth contains material on Mary Sue's private life and non-theatrical interests, such as her baby book, gardening, and decoration ideas for her Santa Fe home.
Series I: Texas records, 1949-1983, n.d. Boxes 1-14
The first subseries, Education and Training, contains Mary Sue's yearbooks, class notes, and her thesis from her years at Baylor University, where she gained her undergraduate and masters degrees in drama. Also included are slides of the 1952 trip to Paris made by the Baylor Drama students with Paul Baker.
The next subseries, Acting, Design, and Directing Career, contains records, audiotapes, photographs, slides, posters, letters, scripts, set designs and costume designs. The material documents Mary Sue's career as an actor, designer and director at Baylor University and at the Dallas Theater Center. There are photographs of her performances, recordings of Hamlet and her Speak 4 Trio group, and original drawings of her set and costume designs. There are also examples of her first husband Roy Fridge's art work, including the posters he designed for the Dallas Theater Center's productions, and some examples of the artwork of set designer Virgil Beavers.
Mary Sue Jones had been with Paul Baker since the inception of the Dallas Theater Center and at the time of his forced retirement she was appointed interim artistic director. The third subseries, Dallas Theater Center Administration, contains administrative files from the executive committee and search committee as well as budgets, planning files, memos, clippings, correspondence, contracts, and playbills. Here is found good documentation of Mary Sue's stint as Interim Artistic Director in 1982, including her plans for the redirection of the theater, and clippings and memos relating to the search for the new director which resulted in the hiring of Adrian Hall.
Series II: New Mexico records, 1931-1992, n.d. Boxes 14-28
Mary Sue Jones left the Dallas Theater Center in 1983 and joined the College of Santa Fe as artist in residence. She taught and directed at the Greer Garson Theater Center becoming a full time faculty member at the College of Santa Fe in 1988. The first subseries, Teaching and Directing, contains class notes, student theses, reviews of College productions, and notes on faculty and college administration. Besides her own theater work, Mary Sue continued to manage the rights to Preston's plays and to promote his memory and the production of his works. In this series, there are clippings about Preston as well as material on the Dallas Theater Center Endowment Fund set up in his memory.
Mary Sue Jones met Paul Baker as a student at Baylor University, and she went on to work closely with him as a member of his core group of artist-teachers until his forced retirement from the Dallas Theater Center in 1982. Afterwards, she continued to keep in touch with her mentor, inviting him to Santa Fe to oversee a production of Preston Jones' The Last Meeting of the Knights of the White Magnolia in 1985, while at the same time organizing a tribute to him. She also took a prominent part in the 1990 Paul Baker festival in Waco, "Second Harvest." The second subseries, Paul Baker Festival Files, contains newspaper clippings, programs, and letters, much of which focuses on Baker's career and theatrical influence.
The next subseries, Script and Production Files, contains Mary Sue's collection of scripts, articles and research material on stage productions. Many of the scripts are annotated with remarks on interpretation and stage directions. A good number of these plays were performed at the Dallas Theater Center. They are arranged alphabetically by title.
The final subseries, entitled Personal, presents aspects of Mary Sue's life from her birth in Carthage, Missouri, through her marriage to and divorce from the sculptor Roy Barto Fridge, her life with Preston at the Dallas Theater Center, her widowhood in Santa Fe, to her death in 1992. Present are her baby book, school records, divorce papers, awards, photographs, letters, clippings, and notices on her death. Her clippings files contain information on matters that were of particular interest to her, such as gardening, the Dallas Theater Center, Preston Jones, home decoration, birds and wildlife, etc.
Open for research.
Mary Sue Jones Papers, Southwestern Writers Collection/Texas State University-San Marcos.
Donated by Diane and Don Malouf and the Birkhead family .
Processed by Gwynedd Cannan, November 1993; Inventory revised by Brandy Harris, 2005.
Detailed Description of the Collection