Katharine Hepburn Theater Exhibition Opens 6/10 at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Katharine Hepburn Theater Exhibition Opens 6/10 at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

The personal theatrical papers of Katharine Hepburn, which were acquired by The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts in 2007, will be on view for the first time in the new library exhibition, Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files, opening Wednesday, June 10. Her long and rich theater career is documented through typescripts (some, like the script for Coco, annotated in Hepburn’s hand), hundreds of photographs (publicity shots and formal portraits, as well as informal snapshots and rehearsal candids), scrapbooks, promotional ephemera, and sixty years of correspondence (fan mail, congratulatory notes, and general letters from such notable friends and admirers as Judy Garland, Richard Burton, John Ford, Vivien Leigh, Peter O’Toole, Cary Grant, Humphrey Bogart, and Jeremy Irons, among scores of others. She saved telegrams from her friends and from stage crews and even the cards that come with flower bouquets, including many signed “Pot,” Hepburn’s pet name for long-time companion Spencer Tracy). The exhibition continues through Saturday, October 10, 2009 in the Vincent Astor Gallery of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, located on the Lincoln Center campus at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza. Admission is free. For exhibition information, call 212.870.1630 or visit the Library’s website at www.nypl.org/lpa. In conjunction with this exhibition, a series of Hepburn films based on stage plays will be screened on Saturday afternoons in July and August at the Library.

Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files shows the evolution of an acting career that began with small parts in the theater. Even after she achieved superstardom in Hollywood, she often returned to the stage where each time she found new challenges, new audiences, new risks, and, more than once, failure. In a stage career that lasted more than a half century  (1928 – 1981), she complemented her brilliant film career with equally memorable theater roles in everything from drama to comedy to musicals, in plays by Shakespeare and Shaw and by Philip Barry and Alan Jay Lerner, both on Broadway and on national tours.  Her papers provide evidence of her desire for historical accuracy and the extraordinary amount of research she did to prepare for her roles. Her life-long commitment to self-improvement can be seen in the annotated vocal exercises she employed..Her famous acerbic wit is displayed in her descriptions of life on the road, including her arrest in Kansas for speeding as she tried to get to the theater for a performance of As You Like It. As she tells it, her insults to the arresting policeman, calling him a “moron” and a “dumbbell” and boasts about the cost of her fur coat backfired in this instance. Notable also are a copy of a curtain speech she delivered in tribute to the fallen students at Kent State and an impassioned plea she composed for Joseph Papp’s Save-the-Theatres campaign. Also included are such unique items, as her pages of handwritten rehearsal notes, and a rare photograph of her from The Big Pond in 1930, a production she appeared in for one night only before being fired.

Excerpts from Remembering Kate, the public program series that was presented at the Library between February and April 2008 to mark the acquisition of the Hepburn archives, will be featured in the exhibition and include Anthony Harvey and Foster Hirsch, Katharine Houghton and Charlotte Moore, and Dick Cavett and Marian Seldes. The program with Zoe Caldwell and Sam Waterston will be screened in its entirety at The New York Public Library’s Morris Park Branch Library in the Bronx on Saturday, September 26 at 2:30 p.m. For information, call 718.931.0636.

The exhibition portrays Hepburn’s stage career in four chronological sections: the early years when she had small roles in productions outside of New York, but missed opportunities on Broadway; her return to Broadway with The Theatre Guild after her success in film; her commitment to Shakespeare and the classics; and the later years when she accepted three major theater roles ­– the musical Coco (1969), A Matter of Gravity (1976), and The West Side Waltz (1981) -  and was even considering projects into the mid-1990’s. Katherine Hepburn: In Her Own Files is curated by Barbara Cohen-Stratyner, Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg Curator of Exhibitions. The acquisition of The Katherine Hepburn Papers was made by Robert Taylor, former Curator of the Billy Rose Theatre Division, who initiated the exhibition.

"The Katharine Hepburn Papers is one of the Library’s treasured collections and we are delighted to preserve this material and put some of it on display for all visitors to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts," said Jacqueline Z. Davis, the Barbara G. and Lawrence A. Fleischman Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Katharine Hepburn is considered one of the greatest actresses and film stars of the 20th century. She was the recipient of four Academy Awards, along with numerous other acting honors. Her stage credits include Art and Mrs. Bottle (1930), The Warrior’s Husband (1932), The Philadelphia Story (1939), As You Like It (1950), The Millionairess (1952),The Merchant of Venice (1957), Much Ado About Nothing (1957), Twelfth Night (1960), Antony and Cleopatra (1960), Coco (1969), A Matter of Gravity (1976) and West Side Waltz (1981). She was born May 12, 1907 in Hartford, Conn., and died on June 29, 2003 at home in Old Saybrook, Conn. at age 96.  Her theater archives, entitled “The Katharine Hepburn Papers,” was donated to The New York Public Library by the estate of Ms. Hepburn through its trustees, Cynthia McFadden and Erik Hanson. It is housed in the Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files is on view from June 10 through October 10, 2009 at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, Vincent Astor Gallery, 40 Lincoln Center Plaza. Exhibition hours are:  Monday and Thursday from 12:00 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:00 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; closed Sundays and holidays. Admission is free. For exhibition information, call 212.870.1630 or visit the Library’s website at www.nypl.org/lpa.

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts gratefully acknowledges the leadership support of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman. Additional support for exhibitions has been provided by Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg and the Miriam and Harold Steinberg Foundation.   

Katharine Hepburn: Stage to Screen
A free series of Katharine Hepburn’s films based on stage plays, Katharine Hepburn: Stage to Screen, will be presented in conunction with the exhibition Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files. The screenings will be held on Saturdays at 2:30 p.m. in the Bruno Walter Auditorium, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center, 111 Amsterdam Avenue. For further information, telephone 212.642.0142 or visit www.nypl.org/lpa.programs.

July 11
The Philadelphia Story, b&w, 112 minutes
Directed by George Cukor, 1940. Based on a play by Philip Barry

July 18
Morning Glory, b&w, 75 minutes
Directed by Lowell Sherman, 1933. Based on a play by Zoë Akins

July 25
Holiday, b&w, 96 minutes
Directed by George Cukor, 1938. Based on a play by Philip Barry

August 1
State of the Union, color, 122 minutes
Directed by Frank Capra, 1948. Based on a play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse

August 8
Summertime, color, 98 minutes
Directed by David Lean, 1955. Based on a play by Arthur Laurents

August 15
Suddenly, Last Summer, b&w, 115 minutes
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959. Based on a play by Tennessee Williams

August 22
The Trojan Women, color, 105 minutes
Directed by Michael Cacoyannis, 1971. Based on a play by Euripides

August 29
A Delicate Balance, color, 132 minutes
Directed by Tony Richardson, 1973. Based on a play by Edward Albee

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts houses the world's most extensive combination of circulating, reference, and rare archival collections in its field. Its divisions are the Circulating Collections, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, Music Division, Billy Rose Theatre Division, and the Rodgers & Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound. The materials in its collections are available free of charge, along with a wide range of special programs, including exhibitions, seminars, and performances. An essential resource for everyone with an interest in the arts - whether professional or amateur - the Library is known particularly for its prodigious collections of non-book materials such as historic recordings, videotapes, autograph manuscripts, correspondence, sheet music, stage designs, press clippings, programs, posters, and photographs.

The New York Public Library was created in 1895 with the consolidation of the private libraries of John Jacob Astor and James Lenox with the Samuel Jones Tilden Trust. The Library provides free and open access to its physical and electronic collections and information, as well as to its services. It comprises four research centers - the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building; The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts; the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and the Science, Industry and Business Library - and 87 Branch Libraries in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island. Research and circulating collections combined total more than 50 million items. In addition, each year the Library presents thousands of exhibitions and public programs, which include classes in technology, literacy, and English as a second language. The New York Public Library serves over 16 million patrons who come through its doors annually and another 25 million users internationally, who access collections and services through its website, www.nypl.org.

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