Austin History Center

Doug Dyer Papers

An Inventory of the Collection

Collection Summary

Creator: Dyer, Douglas, 1942-1991
Title: Doug Dyer Papers
Dates: 1944-1991
Dates (Bulk): 1972-1991
Abstract: Doug Dyer was an active member of the theater community in Austin, Texas, from the late 1960s to his untimely death from AIDS in 1991. This collection dates from 1944-1991 and includes correspondence, musical compositions, scripts, memorabilia, and photographs documenting his life and contributions to both theater and LGBTQ rights.
Identification: AR.1992.006
Quantity: 2.4 linear feet (6 boxes)
Location: Archives Stacks, qAR, Outer Vault
Language: English
Repository: Austin History Center, Austin Public Library,
810 Guadalupe, PO Box 2287, Austin, TX 78768

Biographical Sketch

Douglas Dyer was born on November 19, 1942, in New Orleans, Louisiana. He later attended Louisiana State University and graduated from Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas in 1965.

While pursuing a Master's of Fine Arts in theatre from the University of Texas at Austin, Dyer entered the Austin theatrical scene with a controversial production called Now the Revolution in 1968. This coming-of-age play, which portrayed youth rebelling against authority and featured nudity, was banned on campus. Joseph Papp, New York producer, hosted the show in New York City under the title Stomp. The show was highly successful and eventually toured Europe.

Dyer returned to New York City and directed several rock musicals for Papp's Public Theatre in the early 1970s. In 1976 when he was back in Austin, Dyer performed “Esther’s Hard Core de Ballet,” an Esther Williams based water ballet skit, at Liberty Lunch with friends Michael Shelton and Shannon Sedwick. He had met Shelton and Sedwick in the late 1960s while involved in the Curtain Club, an informal theater group at the University of Texas. The Liberty Lunch Esther Williams based skit inspired a regular Friday night show that was a precursor to Esther’s Follies, which eventually would be performed out of Esther’s Pool. Esther's Follies still performs today with a rotating cast in downtown Austin.

Dyer wrote a play based upon Edward Swift's novel Splendora and in 1984, it was performed in Austin. The Safe Sex Players were founded by Dyer in 1985. At the same time, Dyer was instrumental in the revival efforts for the State Theatre on Congress Avenue. In the 1980s, Dyer directed several plays such as T-Shirts, Madwomen, and I Pass For Straight.

Douglas Dyer died in Austin on April 10, 1991, of complications from AIDS.

Scope and Contents

The collection is arranged into eight series. The first series documents Doug Dyer’s correspondence, primarily between friends, family, and lovers, from 1972-1991. A small number of letters are sent to or received from professional contacts, including theater collaborators and grant foundations. Of note are letters sent to Dyer during his illness and remembrances sent to Dyer’s family in April 1991 following Dyer’s death. A majority of the communication is received correspondence from his parents, brother, and friends.

The Legal series is very small, containing only two documents from the New York Police Department from 1982-1983 and undated/unsigned stage production contracts.

The Printed Material series spans 1965-1990 and documents gay rights events, AIDS information, and theater reviews, invitations, and programs. Dyer’s MFA diploma from the University of Texas at Austin and his Bronco yearbook from Hardin-Simmons University are also included in this series. Several broadsides and posters primarily document Esther’s Follies productions. A large number of musical compositions comprise their own series, making up about .5 linear feet. These are dated 1987-1990, however are mostly undated works-in-progress likely attributed largely to Dyer, though some are titled and attributed to other persons.

The largest series is comprised of finished and unfinished scripts, dating from 1977-1990. Of note are the Now the Revolution/Stomp script, Dyer’s final production I Pass For Straight, and several skits and monologues written for Esther’s Follies productions. Various scripts collected are attributed to persons other than Dyer, including Doric Wilson, Sterling Price-McKinney, and Eryk Markham. Also of mention are Aqua Festival scripts, notes, and ideas. A small series is dedicated to Production Notes, including notes from 1990 on I Pass For Straight. The majority of the notes are undated and related to Esther’s Follies, Splendora, and Stomp.

The items in the Assorted Materials series date from 1964-1983 and include poems attributed to various people, including Dyer. Of note is a copy of the 1964-1965 The Autumn Corral, a poetry journal published by Hardin-Simmons University, which features two poems by Doug Dyer. Also included in this series is an account ledger for Esther’s Follies, a student paper about Dyer, and a drawing by local artist Mickey Joe Mayfield. A subseries on Michael Cain includes manuscripts, correspondence, and printed material. Michael Cain, a friend and collaborator of Dyer’s, was a composer with multiple degrees in music, including a master’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. He was part of the Safe Sex Players with Dyer in the late 1980s. Of note in his materials are two thank you letters from playwright Robert Patrick regarding having received materials on Safe Sex Players productions as well as Patrick’s own collaboration on their projects.

The final series documents photographs taken from 1944-1990. The first subseries is theater-related photographs from the 1970s-1990, including professional images for publicity purposes as well as informal documentation of productions. Spendora, I Pass For Straight, Madwomen, and the Safe Sex Players are documented in these photographs. The personal subseries dates from 1944-1990 and includes a few photos from Dyer’s childhood, but most are snapshots of Dyer as an adult with friends, and may include theater personalities. Dyer is recognizable in many of the personal photos, but most do not have identifications. Some of the personal photos include male nudity. The negatives do not overlap much with the prints. In all, there are 133 prints, 148 slides, and 316 negatives.


The collection is arranged into eight series:
I. Correspondence
II. Legal
III. Printed Material
IV. Musical Compositions
V. Scripts
VI. Production Notes
VII. Assorted Material
VIII. Photographs


Access Restrictions

Open to all users

Use Restrictions

The Austin History Center (AHC) is the owner of the physical materials in the AHC collections and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the AHC before any publication use. The AHC does not necessarily hold copyright to all of the materials in the collections. In some cases, permission for use may require seeking additional authorization from the copyright owners. Consult repository for more details.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Dyer, Douglas, 1942-1991.
Shelton, Michael.
Sedwick, Shannon.
Cain, Michael, 1958-1991.
Patrick, Robert, 1937-.
Galloway, Terry.
Sears, Joe, 1949-.
Wilson, Doric, 1939-2011.
Mayfield, Mickey Joe, 1939-2002.
Pogue, Alan.
Swift, Edward, 1943-.
Markham, Eryk.
Subjects (Organizations)
Esther's Follies (Austin, Tex.).
Safe Sex Players (Austin, Tex.).
Hardin-Simmons University.
University of Texas at Austin.
Austin Aqua Festival.
National Association of People with AIDS (U.S.).
Austin PWA Coalition (Austin, Tex.).
Gay rights--Texas--Austin.
Gays--Texas--Austin--Social conditions.
AIDS (Disease).
Theater--Production and direction.
Musical theater--Production and direction.
Austin (Tex.)--Social life and customs.
Austin (Tex.)--Pictorial works.
Austin (Tex.)--Social conditions.
Document Types
Greeting cards.
Legal documents.
Black-and-white photographs.
Black-and-white negatives.
Color slides.
Color photographs.
Color negatives.

Related Material

Archives & Manuscripts

  • Performing Arts Collection (AR.1991.001) -- Safe Sex Players programs, circa 1984-1985

Austin Files:

  • AF Subject - University of Texas - Colleges and Departments - Fine Arts - Curtain Club U3540(7)
  • AF Subject - LGBT People H2030
  • AF Subject - Theater - Esther's Follies T6500(21)
  • AF Biography - Dyer, Douglas
  • AF Biography - Shelton, Michael
  • AF Biography - Galloway, Terry
  • AF Biography - Sears, Joe

Separated Material

Local newsletters Rumors, All About Austin, and PWA Austin were separated to the Periodicals Collection.

Various clippings were separated to Austin Files (Subject and Biography).

A 792.0976431 FO The Follies Fifth: A Collection of Photographs from Esther's Follies, 1977-1982 and A 813.54 PI AA Aardvar the Magician: Life in the Big City by Turk Pipkin were separated to the General Collection.

Duplicates and out-of-scope materials were deaccessioned.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Doug Dyer Papers (AR.1991.006). Austin History Center, Austin Public Library, Texas.

Acquisition Information

Donor #: DO/1991/100

Donation Date: 9 May 1992

Processing Information

Collection was arranged by Tim Wilder in 1994. Finding aid created and encoded by Kelly Hanus in 2017.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Correspondence, 1972-1991

Box Folder
1 1 In memoriam--letters and remembrances to Dyer and his family, 1991 April
2-5 Personal & professional correspondence--sent and rec'd, 1972-1990

Legal, 1982-1983, undated

Box Folder
1 6 New York City Police Department forms, 1982-1983
7 Stage production contracts, undated

Printed Material, 1965-1990, undated

Box Folder
1 8 General--news clippings, flyers, pamphlets, 1973-1990
9 MFA diploma from the University of Texas, 1967 June
10 AIDS information--Austin PWA Coalition, undated
11 Queer Nation flyer, undated
12-13 Theater invitations, programs, etc., 1969-1990, undated
Box Folder
2 1-2 Theater reviews--clippings 1969-1990, undated
3 I Pass for Straight promotional materials 1990
4 Hardin-Simmons University Bronco yearbook, 1965
Location BoxItem
qAR 14/55 Poster for Lesbian-Gay Equal Rights March on Austin, 1991
14/56 Esther's Follies poster, 1979
14/57 Madwomen at Mexic-Arte poster, undated
14/58-64 Esther's Follies posters, 1979, undated
14/65 Greater Tuna at the Ritz poster, undated
15/16 Splendora poster, 1984

Musical Compositions, 1987-1990, undated

Box Folder
2 5-7 General works in progress, undated
Box Folder
3 1-4 General works in progress, undated
5 Whither Thou Goest (excerpt from a work in progress) based on The Book of Ruth by Janet Carlson, general works in progress (unattributed), 1987-1990

Scripts, 1977-1990, undated

Box Folder
3 6 Rule of Thumb by Gwen Ross, Like Forces, short scripts by Eryk Markham, short monologues and skits by Doug Dyer, 1965, 1987, 1991, undated
7 Stage notes, skits, ideas, undated
Box Folder
4 1 Skits, The Birth of Esther by Doug Dyer, stage notes, Aqua Festival notes, film parodies by George Wilkerson, undated
2 Skits, monologues, etc., 1987-1990, undated
3 AIDS (Artists Involved with Death and Survival) Show, 1984
4 Aqua Fest, 1982, undated
5 Cry Centipede, undated
6 Edge of Cliff, undated
7 Faustus, 1978
8 Gee! He's Us of Nazareth, 1983
9 Going Down, undated
10 I Pass For Straight, 1989-1990
11 Is Alexander Godunov?, 1982
12 Killer Hair, undated
13 Les Scandals d'Austin (Benefit Paramount), 1980
14 Madonna Can Do It, undated
Box Folder
5 1 Now the Revolution/Stomp, 1970, undated
2 A Perfect Relationship by Doric Wilson, 1978
3 A Pile Up, undated
4 A Place With Promise by Edward Swift, undated
5 Raiders of the Private Parts, undated
6 Reagan Re-Election Campaign (or Halloween), 1984
7 Splendora, 1984
8 Drafts and notes for Stomp, 1970
9 Stomp (Paris show), 1970
10 The Unforgettable Woman by Sterling Price-McKinney, undated
11 The Yuck Stops Here, undated
12 The West Street Gang by Doric Wilson, 1977
13 Untitled, undated

Production Notes, 1990, undated

Box Folder
5 14 Esther's Follies, undated
15 I Pass For Straight, 1990
16 Splendora cast biographies, undated
17 Stomp, undated
Box Folder
6 1 Untitled, undated

Assorted Materials, 1964-1983

Box Folder
6 2 Poems, 1964-1974, undated
3 Student paper, "A Comparative Study of The Living Theatre and The Combine" by S. B. Simpson, 1983
4 Drawings--Mickey Joe Mayfield, 1978
5 Esther's program account book, 1980
Michael Cain, 1984, undated
Box Folder
6 6 Manuscripts, undated
7 Correspondence, undated
8 Printed material, 1984

Photographs, 1944-1990

Theater-related photographs, circa 1970s-1990
Box Folder
6 9 Splendora black-and-white photographs (#017-028, 115-121), 1984
Location ArchivesCollection
Outer Vault Color Neg. Drawer Splendora color slides (#178-189), 1984
Color Neg. Drawer Safe Sex Players et al. - color slides - portraits, bridges, group photos (#134-153), 1985 May
Ken Hodnett Production of Madwomen - color slides (#154-177), 1989
Box Folder
6 10 I Pass For Straight black-and-white photographs (#001-016), undated
Location ArchivesCollection
Outer Vault B&W Neg. Drawer I Pass For Straight black-and-white negatives (92 unnumbered), undated
Color Neg. Drawer Unidentified production - color slides (#173-177), 1978 January/February
Color Neg. Drawer Unidentified production - color slides (#190-214), 1989 October
Color Neg. Drawer Unidentified production - color slides (#215-219), 1990 September
Color Neg. Drawer Unidentified production - color slides (#220-232), undated
Box Folder
6 11 Unidentified, assorted - black-and-white photographs (#029-044, 122-133), undated
Location ArchivesCollection
Outer Vault Color Neg. Drawer Unidentified, assorted - color slides (#233-258), undated
B&W Neg. Drawer Unidentified, assorted - black-and-white negatives (43 unnumbered), undated
Personal Photographs, 1944-1990
Box Folder
6 12 Assorted portraits, family friends and other scenes - black-and-white and color photographs (#082-114), 1944-1970s
Location ArchivesCollection
Outer Vault Color Neg. Drawer Assorted family, friends, and other scenes - color slides (#259-263), undated
Color Neg. Drawer Assorted family friends, and other scenes - color negatives (181 unnumbered), undated
Color Neg. Drawer Flowers - color slides (#264-281), 1990 May
Box Folder
6 13 Swimming scenes (nudes) - black-and-white photographs (#051-072), circa 1970s
14 Town Lake scenes - black-and-white photographs (#073-081), circa 1970s
15 Unidentified man (nudes) - black-and-white photographs (#045-050), circa 1979