The founding of Ram’s Head Theatrical Society marks one of the most enduring legacies created by a student arts group. This elite group of drama majors performs tri-annually in the Big Game Gaieties, Winter-One-Act, and Spring Show. Performing in Ram’s Head productions requires versatile actors who are at ease with comedy, tragedy, and musicals. Ram’s Head has a history of interdisciplinary collaborations with dance groups and musical ensembles, and organized an Inter-Collegiate Charity Show in 1950 to raise money for cancer research. Even Ram’s Head backstage areas became prominent, when, according to the Business Manager Report of 1944, “the problem of presenting the Gaieties on December 1 and 2 was raised. The Ballet Russe [de Monte Carlo] is moving in for a one night stand the night of November 24th, and it wants back stage, dressing rooms and lights clear and available.” After performing Blue Jeans in 1938, Ram’s Head invited American playwright and novelist Martin Flavin to visit Stanford and teach a course in dramaturgy.
Despite the company’s professionalism and popularity, Ram’s Head is not devoid of mishaps. For instance, Ram’s Head borrowed two bass fiddles from a Palo Alto high school for the 1948 Gaieties. One of the musicians placed the fiddles in a prop room for temporary storage, and soon afterwards a prop girl, ironically named Frances Dinkelspiel, pushed a double-decker prop wagon into the instruments. A multitude of insurance papers from Paperwork Pacific Indemnity Company document repair charges amounting to $38.75.
Amid the turbulence of the 1960s, Ram’s Head became defunct in 1971. Fortunately its closure was not permanent. The company revived in 1975 and received accolades for its performance of Guys and Dolls in 1976 and Fiddler on the Roof in 1977. In 1981, Ram’s Head furthered its communication with other campus drama groups by becoming a member of the Theater Guild. According to its inaugural mission statement: “The Theater Guild is an organization designed to increase communication between student performing groups, serve as a strong lobby for these groups and function as an informational and advisory resource for all student drama.”
The theatrical collective continues to perform celebrated and original works each quarter. Alumna Kerry Mahuron (class of 2011) comments on how Ram’s Head has enhanced her college experience both personally and professionally: “As a junior at Stanford, I wrote a play, The Fisherman, which was produced as part of Ram’s Head Original Winter One Acts festival. The next year, in that same festival, I had a lead acting role in a student-written play called Fix It. Both experiences were truly highlights in my time at Stanford and instrumental in giving me the confidence to pursue a career as a professional screenwriter and playwright. I will never forget closing night of Fix It; it was a perfect performance from the entire cast, the audience was in our thrall, and I saw a lifelong dream fulfilled.”
Featured image: Ram’s Head actors performing in 1953 spring show, “Frisco ‘49”