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Candid Campus: The Lesser-Known Narratives of Bryn Mawr College

A Passion for Performance: Banner Shows

Page from the scrapbook of Lucy Shoe (Meritt), Class of 1927

Programs from various Banner Shows of the 1920s.

Bryn Mawr's mania for theater began with small, informal class plays. In 1886, the sophomore class of 1889 staged a production welcoming the freshman class in the gymnasium, the only campus space available at the time for such an event. Over the next few years, classes continued putting on shows for one another. Eventually, the juniors annually presented a play to freshman and bestowed upon them their class banner, thus giving birth to the Banner Show. Students soon established rules for the tradition: the Freshman Show was to be an original production, while the other classes could opt to act out already renowned plays. Hoping to continuously astound audiences, the Banner Shows exhibited elaborate sets and finely made costumes. In 1920, a required number of plays was established: each class would present three formal plays and one show throughout its four-year duration.