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Irene Belcher theater collection

Identifier: MSS-096

Scope and Contents

This collection contains materials dealing mostly with her work with various local theatre groups: Children’s Playhouse, Civic Theatre, and Easter Pageant. Items include correspondence, news clippings, scripts and programs, as well as biographical information about Irene and Aaron Belcher. The collection includes three scrapbooks with newspaper clippings about the Muncie Civic Theater and Children’s Playhouse Theater, as well as letters to Irene Belcher and several photographs. An autograph book signed by her students and a 1983 directory for High Street United Methodist Church.

P25 contains photographs depicting plays with which Irene Belcher was involved and people whom she knew. POVA 23 contains 33 photographs of the various plays with which Irene Belcher was involved. POVC 10 is a photograph of students of the Indiana State Normal School, Eastern Division, taken in front of the Administration Building, 1920s. Irene Belcher was one of these students.


  • Creation: 1916-1998

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Archives and Special Collections.

Biographical Note

Irene Belcher was born in Muncie, the daughter of Joseph and Lola Howell Thompson. She attended Jefferson School and graduated from Muncie High School and the Indiana State Normal School, Eastern Division, (now Ball State University) in 1923. Mrs. Belcher taught at Lincoln School before marrying Aaron (Doug) Belcher in 1924. Mr. Belcher taught school and worked at Ontario as a foreman. He eventually joined the Muncie Fire Dept., serving as chief for several years. The Belchers had two daughters, Judy and Martha (Mollie).

Always interested in theatre, Irene Belcher played summer stock roles with the Princeton Players in Princeton, New Jersey, along with such stage notables as Tallulah Bankhead, Humphrey Bogart, Helen Hayes and others. She was also a charter member of Muncie Civic Theatre and very active in the organization, as actress, producer, membership volunteer and also president of the group. It was during her term as president that Muncie Civic Theatre moved from its former headquarters in the Masonic Temple to its present address, 216 E. Main St., the site of two former movie theatres, the Star and the Hoosier.

Irene Belcher operated an educational theatre program for school age children locally for thirty years. She opened her first children’s studio in the 1930s, across from the old City Hall building, on the southwest corner of Jackson and Jefferson. From there she moved to the third floor of the Chamber of Commerce building, on the corner of Jefferson and Main St., where she had the entire top floor. Mrs. Belcher was also active in children’s theatre groups nationally, being one of the original twenty members who formed the National Children’s Theatre Conference in 1944. She served several times as advisor for children’s theatres throughout the country.

Other organizations in which she was active included Muncie Matinee Musicale, for which she served one year as president. She directed, produced and acted in plays given by the High Street Players and served as director and producer of the community Easter Pageant from 1950-1960. Mrs. Belcher also acted in and directed productions of Little Shoestring Theatre, the summer theatre tent shows given on the Ball State campus by its Theatre Department.

In the early 1960s, she and her husband, along with Ruth Ball Harker and her son, Walter, operated a booking agency, bringing productions to Muncie, such as the San Francisco Ballet.

Irene Belcher died November 29, 1984, at the age of 82.


5.5 Cubic Feet (7 boxes)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged in the following series:

Series 1: Irene Belcher personal documents, 1916-1998

Series 2: Children's Playhouse Theatre documents, 1939-1975

Series 3: Muncie Civic Theatre documents, 1932-1976

Series 4: Organizational documents, 1921-1926, 1941-1942, 1951-1963

Series 5: Other theatre and performance documents, 1922-1923, 1935-1978

Series 6: Irene Belcher negatives, 1916-1984

Series 7: Irene Belcher oversize collection, 1920s

Series 8: Irene Belcher oversize photographs, 1916-1984

Series 9: Irene Belcher photographs, 1916-1984

Custodial History

This collection was received by Archives and Special Collections as a donation by Martha J. Reinoehl and Judith A. Manning in 1987.


No further additions are expected.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital reproductions of Irene Belcher Children's Playhouse Theatre are available electronically in the Ball State University Digital Media Repository:

Related Archival Materials

Materials relating to this collection may be found in the following collections in Archives and Special Collections, Ball State University Libraries, Muncie IN:

MSS.070: Muncie Civic Theatre collection

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 1991/04/18 by K. Dean. Collection processing revised 2004/05 by A. Tonne. Collection processing revised 2004/06 by M. Newton. Collection processing revised 2007/07/17 by M. Read. EAD finding aid created 2012/10/05 by Julie Hausknecht. EAD finding aid modified 2013/10/28 by Rebecca Marangelli. EAD finding aid modified 2013/12/02 by Rebecca Marangelli.

Irene Belcher theater collection
Under Revision
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Stoeckel Archives of Local History Repository

Alexander M. Bracken Library
2000 W. University Avenue
Muncie Indiana 47306 USA