In the spring of 1919 Miss Martha Lee, Professor of Expression at Southwestern College, made a suggestion to students involved in dramatic productions. She proposed to Helen Graham, then a senior, and others that they organize a dramatics club. The following September, Campus Players was chartered. It was designed as a society to promote excellence in dramatic performance and to honor such performers. The Campus Players assumed responsibility for the school stage and its equipment. In its charter year only one play was produced.
When Helen Graham returned to Southwestern to serve on the faculty in 1922, the Campus Players decided they did not need a director for their productions. After all, Helen Graham was not a member of the Campus Players because the charter had been drawn up after her graduation in the spring of 1919. They therefore produced Nothing But the Truth on their own. After the performance, Miss Graham tactfully suggested that it was "interesting," but needed "polish." Because of her good humor, she was heartily welcomed into the organization and directed all of its productions for the next forty-one years.
The mask of comedy, pierced with a dagger of tragedy, was adopted as the Campus Player symbol in 1924.
Southwestern's actors became Campus Player members only after being recognized for acting in plays produced by other campus organizations. Only Campus Players performed in Campus Player productions. Then in 1952, the Campus Players took over the production of all-school play, formerly produced by campus societies. Thus a monopoly was established.
After Miss Graham's retirement in 1963, Arthur Tess changed the format of Campus Players. He opened casting for all productions in the entire school and made Campus Players an honorary society only, recognizing production personnel as well as actors.
A highlight of the Campus Player year is a formal Banquet in the spring that honors new and graduating members. It became a customary practice in 1962 for caricatures of the graduating members to be made and hung in the hallway leading to the Little Theatre.
Members are distinguished on Campus Players programs by adding the title of "Mr.", "Miss," "Ms.", or "Mrs." before their names.
Recently, in April of 1999, Campus Players added a new tradition to the organization. All graduating members of Campus Players will wear Campus Players honor cords for their graduation ceremony. The cords will be gold, purple, red and green, the colors on the Campus Players mask as well as to represent the four pillars of the Constitution: Commitment, Perseverance, Cooperation and Participation.