About The Founder

Thomas P. Collins

If you seek a guest speaker who is in tune with the Wild West, Tom is your guy!
Arizona Theater Historian was founded by Tom Collins. He has such a great passion for theatre and acting that, even after retiring, he still wants to give performances: either to educate people about the theatre in the Arizona Territory or to provide information about the Wild West theatre period to fellow actors and directors.
Previously, Tom taught speech and theatre at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville for 31 wonderful years. He also co-founded the Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival. Tom loves performing and he plans to continue this with Arizona Theater Historian, either as a readers theatre presenter  or as a resource person. 
Establishing this project has become an instrumental tool for Tom to be able to connect with audiences and actors and let them know more about the history of the Wild West Theatre. His goal is to let other people experience and enjoy learning more about this particular theatrical period by bringing the subject back to life with colorful and entertaining presentations that western history buffs and theatre lovers will surely enjoy.

​​Stage-Struck Settlers in the Sun-Kissed Land​​

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

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.