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Early California Settlers and Immigrants Resources: Clay M. Greene

Guide to the Manuscripts and Digital Collections of California Founders

The Passion Play

Knights of Columbus attend a performance of "The Passion Play of Santa Clara, 1907

Clay M. Greene Papers

Clay M. Greene was an American playwright, director and alumnus of Santa Clara College. Born on March 12, 1850 in San Francisco, California, Greene was exposed to the burgeoning theater trade of the Gold Rush Era as an adolescent. Greene immersed himself in the world of theater, observing, acting and eventually writing burlesques and plays. In 1867, Greene’s parents sent him to Santa Clara College, where they hoped he would pursue studies in law or medicine. Instead, his college experience further solidified his interest in the theater. Upon his return to San Francisco in 1870, Greene worked as a newspaperman, writing for The Golden Era and its competitor The Argonaut. In 1878, Greene relocated to New York, where he believed his work would flourish, and eventually, it did. Over his career, seventeen of Greene’s thirty-three full length plays became Broadway productions. As a gift to his alma mater, Greene wrote and produced Nazareth: The Passion Play of Santa Clara. Greene’s Passion Play was performed for the first time at Santa Clara College’s Golden Jubilee in 1901 and enjoyed continued success for many years.


The Passion Play of Santa Clara, 1901-1951

Nazareth: The Passion Play of Santa Clara, by Clay M. Greene, had its origins in a request that Fr. Robert Kenna, S.J., President of the College, made to Clay Greene. Kenna was preparing for Santa Clara College’s upcoming Golden Jubilee in 1901, commemorating the college’s fiftieth anniversary, and he wanted some kind of religious theatrical performance to celebrate the occasion. This genre of play, which retells the final days and death of Jesus, dates back to the middle ages. Greene’s play would be performed eight times at Santa Clara University, the last performance being in 1951.

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Archives & Special Collections Access Policy

The original manuscript and personal papers collections, as well as the University Archives and photograph collections, are available for researchers to use in the Norman F. Martin, S.J. Reading Room, Monday - Friday, 10 am - 7 pm.  Access to the collections are by appointment only.  Please contact us at to make an appointment.