Tom Collins: Arizona Theatre Historian

About Tom

Tom has been a Wild West history and theatre history lover all his life.  A professor emeritus of theatre, he lives with his wife Wendy in Prescott, Arizona, where he works as a volunteer with the Sharlot Hall Museum and conducts research on the fascinating history of the Arizona Territory.  He has published numerous articles and a book—Stage-Struck Settlers in the Sun-Kissed Land—about the amateur and professional theatre in Territorial Prescott, and his new book—Arizona on Stage: Playhouses, Plays, and Players in the Territory, 1879-1912—will be published by Globe Pequot Press in the fall of 2015.

Tom taught speech and theatre at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for thirty-one years and co-founded the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival, for which he served as artistic director for twenty-three years.  In his free time he swims, hikes, and visits prehistoric Indian sites, territorial military forts, and state and national parks.  An actor from the age of six, Tom in retirement has presented numerous Readers Theatre performances about Wild West Theatre at the Sharlot Hall Museum, the Pioneer Arizona Living History Museum, the Prescott Corral of Westerners, the Phoenix Corral of Westerners, the Western History Symposium in Prescott, and the Riordan Mansion in Flagstaff.  Most of these performances have been presented with a female acting partner. 

If your organization would enjoy learning more about Wild West Theatre from someone who will bring the subject vividly to life with colorful and dramatic, interactive presentations, please call or contact Tom.

Contact Information

Phone: 928-442-0341




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Last Updated Friday, November 06, 2015

Copyright 2015: Thomas P. Collins; all rights reserved

Publications by Tom Collins

Stage-Struck Settlers in the Sun-Kissed Land: The Amateur Theatre in Territorial Prescott, 1868-1903.

(Tucson: Wheatmark, 2007).  128 pp., illus.

The rise of the amateur theatre in nineteenth-century Prescott, the territorial capital of Arizona, is told here in vivid and loving detail, with fifty-two illustrations that include portraits of amateur actors and theatre builders, maps of the town, and photos of theatres.  The talented and dedicated actor-settlers—including Fort Whipple’s Fannie Kautz, wife of the Civil War hero General August V. Kautz; and attorney Thomas Fitch, “The Silver Tongued Orator of the Pacific,” who founded the Prescott Dramatic Club—lived lives that were almost as dramatic as the comedies and melodramas that thrilled the local audiences.

Arizona on Stage: Playhouses, Plays, and Players in the Territory, 1879-1912.  (Connecticut: Globe-Pequot Press, 2015)

Newly released, this profusely illustrated and entertainingly written story of the renowned actors and actresses who visited the Arizona Territory is a must-have for lovers of the theatre and aficionados of Wild West history. 

Pauline Markham, the voluptuous burlesque queen, brought H.M.S. Pinafore to Arizona’s boomtowns.  Melodramatic heroines rescued heroes from flaming buildings, bold adventuresses tried to poison their old lovers, and fallen women came to tragic ends.  Stars like Louis James, the eminent Shakespearean tragedian, and Florence Roberts, the queen of the modern realistic drama, gave audiences a special thrill.

Amusing anecdotes about stage pranks and catastrophes enliven the colorful narrative, and rare portraits of performers and sensational theatre posters make the stars of old shine again. 

Arizona on Stage offers an engaging alternative to the traditional view of the Arizona Territory as a hotbed of gang violence, lawlessness, and drinking and gambling.  It was also a place where law-abiding citizens enjoyed the cultural amenities of the Atlantic Coast: music and drama.   

Text Box: "Shakespearean actor Louis James"

Text Box: "actor Milton Nobles"