Ramsey Yelvington & James G. Barton

James G. Barton

James G. Barton assumed the role of Director of Theatre at Southwest Texas State College in 1947, following his tenure as a faculty member at The University of Kansas and Oklahoma State. Barton’s mission was to foster a vibrant and culturally rich theater community in the Southwest United States by discovering and nurturing local talent. He co-founded and served as president of the Texas Educational Theater Association. Barton was the director of the Southwest Texas State University Theatre Department for many years before transitioning into semi-retirement, remaining a faculty member and serving as the Archivist for Southwest Texas State University’s Theater Department.


Ramsey Yelvington

Ramsey Yelvington was a third-generation Texan. As a Texas-born playwright, he wrote what he knew. His writing was dedicated to exploring the indigenous Southwest character and the folklore and motifs of the Southwest and Texas. Yelvington initially began writing and staging plays at Baylor University with the help of Paul Baker. He wrote "A Cloud of Witnesses: The Drama of The Alamo," which was a popular historical drama about the battle of the Alamo. This was first produced at Baylor University in 1954 and directed by Paul Baker. The play then migrated to San Antonio and the San Jose Mission in 1955. In 1958, Yelvington and Baker asked Barton to take over producing and directing the production; this started a wildly successful and critically acclaimed four-year run of "A Cloud of Witnesses" at the San Jose Mission. The production drew audience members from all fifty states and thirty-six foreign countries. During this time, Yelvington became a part of the Southwest Texas State theatre faculty and became its playwright-in-residence in 1961.


Creative Relationship

Barton and Yelvington collaborated on fourteen out of twenty-two plays written by Yelvington, with seven being world premieres. They had various roles while working on these productions and would sometimes perform in the play and co-direct productions. This partnership was not solely focused on producing Yelvington’s plays but on the growth of the Southwestern theater scene through education and fostering talent. Yelvington’s plays contained a diverse series of settings, themes, and characters, and under the direction of Barton, they were able to successfully produce wholly realized and sometimes experimental productions under the umbrella of Southwest Texas State University's Theatre Program.

This collaborative partnership was cut short when Yelvington was struck by a heart attack and passed away at the age of sixty on July 23rd, 1973. He had been producing an original play at Southwestern Texas State University, titled "The Folklorist," which was being directed by his daughter, Harriet Yelvington Smith. There had been pre-production plans to revive the classic Barton-Yelvington collaboration, "A Cloud of Witnesses," for the spring of 1974 and to produce "The Marble Horseman," an epochal drama about Washington and the Revolution for the American Bicentennial. Yelvington left a lasting legacy as Southwest Texas State University’s first playwright-in-residence, and the partnership between Barton and Yelvington was a successful enterprise. Under the guidance of Barton and through the authentic, true-to-life, regionally stylized writing of Yelvington, a reverence for Southwest Texas State University’s Theatre Program was spawned, and the university's ever-growing prestige as a preeminent place for educational theater in the Southwest was solidified.