Rebecca Ranson papers, 1906-2013.

Emory University

Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library

Atlanta, GA 30322



Permanent link: http://pid.emory.edu/ark:/25593/d7rtg

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Ranson, Rebecca, 1943-
Title: Rebecca Ranson papers, 1906-2013.
Call Number:Manuscript Collection No. 1253
Extent:28.25 linear ft. (59 boxes), 14 oversized papers (OP), .25 linear ft. born digital materials (1 box) (BD), and AV Masters: 4 linear ft.
Abstract:Papers of playwright Rebecca Ranson including subject files, writings, journals, audiovisual material, born digital material, correspondence, printed material, and photographs that document her career as a playwright, author, and activist.
Language:Materials entirely in English.

Administrative Information

Restrictions on Access

Special restrictions apply:

Use copies have not been made for audiovisual material in this collection. Researchers must contact MARBL at least two weeks in advance for access to these items. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder MARBL's ability to provide access to audiovisual material.

Researchers must contact MARBL in advance for access to unprocessed born digital materials in this collection. Collection restrictions, copyright limitations, or technical complications may hinder MARBL's ability to provide access to unprocessed born digital materials.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

All requests subject to limitations noted in departmental policies on reproduction.

Related Materials in Other Repositories

Rebecca Ranson papers, ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives.


Gift, 2013, with subsequent additions.


[after identification of item(s)], Rebecca Ranson papers, Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library, Emory University.


Processed by Laura Starratt, Mike Camp, and Will Love, April 2014.

Collection Description

Biographical Note

Rebecca Ranson, Southern lesbian playwright and author, was born on September 9, 1943. She was one of three children along with her sister, Laura (Ranson) Burns, and her brother, Murphy Dale Ranson. She attended the University of Georgia, Athens, and received a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film in 1970. She earned a Master of Fine Arts in Playwriting at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1975. She married Charles Richard Engle in 1965 and had one son, Charles. They divorced in 1967, and she was later married to William "Coke" Ariail, III. During her marriage to Ariail, she began a relationship with Miranda Campabis that lasted from the late 1970s through the early 1980s. She began her career as a creative writing instructor in North Carolina in 1978, and from 1979-1981 worked at WVSP Public Radio in Warrenton, North Carolina, as a project and workshop director, media producer, and writer. In 1982, she served as Playwright-in-Residence for The Road Company in Johnson City, Tennessee, and from 1983-1985, she was Writer-in-Residence at Harrisburg Area Community College. In 1986, she was hired as the Executive Director of the Southeastern Arts, Media and Education Project (SAME), a multi-arts organization for the gay and lesbian community in Atlanta, Georgia, and served in that capacity for twelve years, receiving the Robert Chesley Foundation Lifetime Achievement award in 2004.

Ranson has written over thirty plays, including The Incarceration of Annie (1983), Desperadoes: A Trilogy (1982), Warren (1984), Blood on Blood (1987), For Love and for Life (1987), Secrets (1988), and A Glorietta (2000). Warren was one of the first plays concerning AIDS to be produced and was written after her friend, Warren Johnston, died of AIDS in April 1984. She started writing a novel and conducted interviews with members of the organization, People with AIDS (PWA); nurses; doctors; partners; families; and friends in San Francisco, California, and Atlanta, Georgia. This research led to the creation of the play Higher Ground in 2010.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of Rebecca Ranson including writings, correspondence, journals, subject files, printed material, photographs, audiovisual material, and born digital material that document her career as a playwright, author, and activist. Writings include plays, poems, short stories, drafts of novels, and other written material by Ranson and focus on her plays, including in-progress drafts, final versions, and copies annotated for performances. There are also freehand and brainstorming notes, often reflecting the subject matter in her plays, but also on topics from her formative years such as issues with her parents, becoming pregnant at 17, and her realization of her changing sexuality. There are also writings by others which include poems and short stories sent to Ranson by people with whom Ranson was personally involved as well as inmates that Ranson met through her prison activism and members of Atlanta's LGBT community.

Correspondence is both personal and professional in nature. Personal correspondents include Ranson's sister, Laura Burns; her second husband, William "Coke" Ariail, III; her son, Charlie Engle; and a lover, Miranda Cambanis. Also included are letters she received through her work with prisoners in North Carolina as part of her program, "In-house Speech and Theater Training for North Carolina Prisons." Professional correspondence documents her performances, her writing, and her career as a writer and teacher including letters of recommendation and application letters for fellowships and endowments. The journals contain Ranson's reflections on her professional life as a playwright and researcher and on her personal life. Some of the common themes are Ranson's personal romantic relationships, interactions with her friends and families, and confessions of struggle and guilt with life issues as well as many events in Atlanta history, both in the gay community as well as the city's history in general.

Subject files include research files for Ranson's oral history projects including transcripts of interviews, as well as subject files on topics of interest to Ranson and about organizations with which Ranson closely affiliated. Interview files contain transcripts from interviews Ranson used for her work on eight distinct projects. There are also personal files containing information on Ranson's family history, employment history, and resumes, as well as some of her notes and notebooks that remain unidentified. Printed material includes newspaper clippings, playbills, promotional material, play programs, newsletters and magazines, memorials, and other material relating to Ranson's activism in the Atlanta LGBT community. The newspaper clippings consist mainly of reviews of Ranson's plays. Though the chronology of the clippings extends from the mid-1970s-2010, most of the clippings document 1981 to 1994. The playbills, promotional material, and programs primarily relate to performances of Ranson's plays. The newsletters and magazines pertain primarily to LGBT issues in Atlanta; there are several issues of Pulse, Amethyst, and Et Cetera, all LGBT-themed publications. The memorials are mainly funeral programs for members of the Atlanta LGBT community who died of AIDS.

Photographs consist of events, people, and performances along with negatives and slides of photographs in the collection. There are photographs of marches, film festivals, special events, and aspects of Ranson's everyday life, as well as a number of photographs of unidentified events. There are also headshots of actors as well as photographs of people that Ranson knew or worked with; photographs of Ranson's son, Charles Engle, and his family; and photographs that appear to depict people in the early 1900s. Photographs of performances include cast photographs and still photographs of play performances. Audiovisual material contains audiocassettes, compact discs, microcassettes, reel-to-reel tapes, u-matic cassettes, and VHS cassettes. The collection primarily contains audiocassettes of interviews Ranson used as research for her work, transcripts of which can be found in the research files series. The audiocassettes also contain recordings of performances of Ranson's plays, mainly Texas Two Steppin' with the Girls and Warren. The videocassettes and microcassettes contain performances of Ranson's plays, along with material pertaining to the Atlanta LGBT community. Born digital materials are restricted until they can be processed, but include writings by Ranson as well as correspondence.

Arrangement Note

Organized into eight series: (1) Writings, (2) Correspondence, (3) Journals, (4) Subject files, (5) Printed material, (6) Photographs, (7) Audiovisual, and (8) Born digital materials.

Description of Series