Prior to the building of the Adams Memorial Theater, two groups performed regularly as part of campus theater activities. The first, Cap and Bells, had evolved from a number of different student performing groups since the early 1870’s, shifted between all-college and class-centered groups. The second, the Williams Little Theater, appeared in the early nineteen hundreds. This was a separate student performance company and offered different kinds of performances than Cap and Bells. These two groups, together and separately, traveled between the Old Williamstown Opera House, Chapin Hall, and Jesup Hall for their performances. Not one of these sites offered the versatility needed to put on large-scale performances.
In hopes of resolving this, Adams Memorial Theater was constructed in 1941 under the presidency of James P. Baxter. Professor Max Flowers was the director of the theater at its opening and set the standard for performances early in its history. The theater opened with the production of Marco Millions, produced by Cap and Bells and the AMT Company. In the 1953-1954 season, the theater presented the first of what would become an annual Freshman Revue and that season was hailed as one of the most unique. In recurring years the AMT typically presented no fewer that nine or ten productions a year and often upwards of thirteen. Over time, it would acquire the second largest student group budget on campus.
Financial hardships as well as lack of interest plagued the theater for a number of years in the 1950’s. What resulted was the reinstitution of a drama major as well as a required fee to attend performances that had not been in place previously. These changes, as well as the addition of the Williamstown Summer Theater in 1954 were an attempt to revitalize AMT. Gradually the number of performances began to decrease with the lack of interest and money on campus. It became apparent that considering the performance of something on the scale of Marco Millions again would be financially impossible. In March of 1960 Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra became the first show in which professional outside actors and production crews were used. This change still remains in place today and has altered the type and caliber of performances which AMT stages.
After a generous donation to the college, plans for building a new theater were developed. Construction began in April of 2003 with a projection that the building would be opened in the spring of 2005 as the ’62 Center for Theater and Dance. It was designed to contain an expansive learning and performing environment, allowing for a larger variety of performance types as well as provisions to accommodate larger professional groups. Though the name of the building itself has changed, the Adams Memorial Theater stage will retain its name following renovations.