University of Arizona

Arizona Senior Follies: A Campus Sensation

Arizona Senior Follies: A Campus Sensation

The Senior Follies would put on remarkable productions at the University of Arizona that included musicals, dancing, comedy routines, and skits from 1920 to 1930. Their productions included both Broadway performances from New York and original productions. The Senior Follies consisted of 8-10 students from the senior class. (“A photographic History of the University of Arizona, 1885-1985”, 164).

Their performances were held at the University Auditorium where the price of admission was $.50 per ticket in 1920. It wasn’t until 1924 when the Senior Follies had opened up its production to the entire student body, consisting of cast members from not only the senior class, but from all of the classes.

The Senior Follies were hugely successful on campus; it was all anyone ever talked about. Desert Magazine stated, “A stranger on the campus hears almost as much about the Follies as he does about the sunshine climate” (1924 Desert Magazine, AZ 059 Box 1 Folder5).  A review from the Arizona Daily Wildcat on May 25th, 1921 raves that the production titled, “Well You Name It” was “a pleasing combination of color, music, racy wit, clever dialogue, and sparking originality” (AZ 059 Box 1 Folder 3). The Senior Follies became so successful that they began performing at larger venues including the Rialto Theater and the Temple of Music and Art.  By 1927, the Senior Follies took their act outside of Tucson and performed in Bisbee, Douglass, and Phoenix, where they performed to completely packed venues.

From 1925-1929, former student performers George Wettle and Josephine Larkin started writing and directing for the UA Follies. They replaced former student director, Gene Quaw, who directed and produced performances from 1923-1924. Quaw’s most famous productions were “Vamonos” in 1923 and “April Fool!” in 1924. 

In later years, former Director of Athletics James Fred McKale would ask Gene Quaw for materials on the Senior Follies to be contributed to the U of A archives. In a 1964 letter, Quaw regretfully tells McKale that all of personal belongings, including the Senior Follies songs and U of A yearbooks, were stored at the Santa Monica warehouse which had burned down (AZ 59 Box 1 Folder 1, letter to McKale from Quaw, 1964).

Although those materials were lost in the fire, there are still plenty of materials relating to the University of Arizona Senior Follies that are here at Special Collections, including: photographs, music sheets, programs, scripts, newspaper clippings, lyrics, and correspondence.