Southern Methodist University

Maria Ascarra papers

A Guide to the Collection


Creator: Ascarra, Maria.
Title: Maria Ascarra papers
Dates: 1870-1936
Abstract: Maria Ascarra was an actress who performed in multiple productions around the United States. The principal material in this collection was collected during her prime performing years in New York City and elsewhere. The collection includes clippings, correspondence, ephemera, documents, programs, publicity, published works, scripts and 3 dimensional objects (primarily theatre props) relating to theatre, dance and classical music. Most of the material originates from Dallas, Texas, but there is also material from New York City and other states and cities.
Extent: 6 boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University

Biographical Note

In 1913, Maria Ascarra was a rising actress and began her career with the Trinz Stock Company in Wisconsin. During this time, she was known as Maria Ascaraga, and sometimes referred to as Maria Ascarage or Marie Ascaraga. By early fall 1914, she was living in New York City, acting in multiple productions. This included a part in the chorus of Carmen in 1915 at the Metropolitan Opera. The following years were spent travelling and performing in New York, Idaho, Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio, Texas.

In 1918, Ascarra returned to New York where she appeared in several camp programs for soldiers in World War I. Correspondence indicates that she aspired to entertain soldiers in France, however, the war ended before she could travel there.

In 1920, she went on tour with the company of Tiger Rose, featuring Lenore Ulric. In August of 1920, she starred in her only feature Broadway show, Spanish Love, at the Maxine Elliot Theatre. In October 1920, Maria placed an exhibit in the lobby of the Maxine Elliot Theatre. This exhibit consisted of the various items that she had collected during the scene of Spanish Love in which she passed down the aisle asking for alms. Also, in 1920, Maria made the final change to her name, from Ascaraga to Ascarra.

In 1921, her agents were unable to find her a new play, so she returned to San Antonio. In 1922, she produced Dona Maria at the Grand Theatre in San Antonio. Also, by 1922, she had married Dr. John Wagoner, a dentist based in San Antonio.

Ascarra also served as the first full time director of the Beaumont Little Theater in Beaumont, Texas from 1925 to 1927.

Ascarra travelled back to New York in 1926 and gave several recitals. These recitals were observed by Edgar Davis who then gave her a leading role in The Ladder. Ascarra performed in The Ladder until the show closed in 1928.

Ascarra donated her collection of theatre material to the McCord Museum in 1936.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Maria Ascarra papers include a variety of materials such as artwork, clippings, correspondence, documents, ephemera, programs, publicity, published works, scrapbooks, scripts, photographs, costumes and three-dimensional objects.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 13 series:
Series 1: Artwork, 1928
Series 2: Clippings, 1917-1928
Series 3: Correspondence, 1913-1928
Series 4: Documents, 1919-1921
Series 5: Ephemera, undated
Series 6: Programs, 1870-1934
Series 7: Publicity, undated
Series 8: Published Works, 1918-1932
Series 9: Scrapbooks, undated
Series 10: Scripts, 1928
Series 11: Photographs, circa 1913-1935
Series 12: Costumes, circa 1920-1930
Series 13: Three-Dimensional Objects, circa 1914-1930


Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the curatorial staff at Hamon Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Ascarra, Maria.
Actresses -- United States.
Theater -- United States -- History -- 20th century -- Sources.
Theater programs -- United States -- Specimens.
Programs -- 20th century.
Costumes (character dress)

Related Materials

This is one of the collections in the Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts. Related materials are located in the Bywaters Special Collections of the Hamon Arts Library of Southern Methodist University.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Maria Ascarra papers, Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts, Jerry Bywaters Special Collections, Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Maria Ascarra, 1936

TThe Maria Ascarra papers were acquired as a component of the Mary McCord/Edyth Renshaw collection on the performing arts. The McCord/Renshaw Collection originated as the McCord Theatre Museum at Southern Methodist University in 1933. It was transferred to the Hamon Arts Library in 1990.

Processing Information

The Maria Ascarra papers was received in no discernable order. During its processing, the collection was divided into separate files for clippings, correspondence, documents, ephemera, programs, publicity, and published works. Folded documents were flattened, and the papers were arranged alphabetically by subject and medium, placed in acid-free folders, and stored in acid-free boxes.

Processed by

Emily George Grubbs, 2007.

Finding aid written by

Emily George Grubbs, 2014.

Encoded by

Ada Negraru, 2014.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series 1: Artwork, 1928

Pencil and crayon sketch by Carroll McCommas of a scene from The Ladder, 1928. Located in flat storage.

Series 2: Clippings, 1917-1928

The clippings contain articles primarily about the 1928 production of The Ladder.
Box Folder
1 1 Clippings

Series 3: Correspondence, 1913-1928

The correspondence consists of cards and letters sent to Ascarra, primarily between 1913 and 1922. Correspondence of particular note includes letters from Edgar B. Davis about her role in The Ladder.
Box Folder
2 Correspondence.

Series 4: Documents, 1919-1921

The documents include several identification cards such as Ascarra’s ID for the Actors Equity Association, as well as the route sheet of the Season 1919-1921 Tiger Rose company.
Box Folder
1 3 Documents

Series 5: Ephemera, undated

The ephemera consists of various postcards.
Box Folder
1 4 Postcards

Series 6: Programs, 1870-1934

The programs include productions in which Ascarra performed and the many that she attended.
Box Folder
1 5 Programs-Ascarra Roles
6 Programs-Ascarra Roles
7 Programs-The Ladder
8 Programs-California
9 Programs-California
10 Programs-Illinois
11 Programs-New York
12 Programs-Texas
13 Programs-France

Series 7: Publicity, undated

This series contains items relating to the New York Drama League and Le Gallienne Productions.>
Box Folder
2 1 Publicity

Series 8: Published Works, 1918-1932

The published works include copies of publications relating to theater, such as Theatre Arts Monthly and the New York Drama League.
Box Folder
2 2 Published Works-Booklet
3 Published Works-Catalogues
4 Published Works-Magazines
5 Published Works-Newsletters
6 Published Works-Periodicals

Series 9: Scrapbooks, undated

The scrapbook [small, good condition] contains photographs from the set of an unidentified silent film which featured Maria Ascarra. Located in flat storage.

Series 10: Scripts, 1928

The scripts include Ascarra’s annotated copies of The Ladder.
Box Folder
2 7 Scripts- The Ladder
8 Scripts

Series 11: Photographs, circa 1913-1935

The photographs include publicity shots of vaudeville performers and as well as stills from stage and film productions such as The Woman and the Puppet.
Box Folder
P/S 1 1 Film Productions
2 Groups
3 Individuals (A-L)
4 Individuals (M-Z)
5 Unidentified
Box Folder
P/S 2 1 Stage Productions
2 Individuals
3 Stage Productions- Spanish Love
4 Stage Productions- Love’s Model

Series 12: Three-Dimensional Objects, circa 1914-1930

The 45 three-dimensional objects include accessories worn by Ascarra and cast members such as Lenore Ulric, Carol McCommas, Blanche Bates and Geraldine Farrar in the productions of Tiger Rose,The Ladder,Paola and Francesca , Carmen and Spanish Love. Items of particular note include the fan that Geraldine Farrar used in the 1915 New York Metropolitan Opera production of Carmen, and Ascarra’s lucky rabbit foot that she kept on her dressing table for 22 years.

Series 13: Costumes, circa 1920-1930

The 9 costumes include those worn by Ascarra in Spanish Love and The Ladder.