NY Public Library's Doug Reside on Billy Rose Theatre Division's Year in Acquisitions
BroadwayWorld.com continues our exclusive content series, in collaboration with The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, which delves into the library's unparalleled archives, and resources. Below, check out a piece by Doug Reside, Lewis and Dorothy Cullman Curator for the Billy Rose Theatre Division at the The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts!
If you've been to Lincoln Center to visit The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, you're almost certainly aware of the world-class exhibitions, fantastic free public programs, and extensive circulating materials we offer to the public every day. The Billy Rose Theatre Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts also actively collects the archives of the people and companies who make theater. These materials include things like drafts of plays, letters between writers and directors, scenic and costume design sketches, photographs, and so much more. This year, the Library acquired some exciting collections, many of which have already been processed and are now available for anyone to examine in our Special Collections reading room.
Here are just a few of the new collections that became part of the Billy Rose Theatre Division in 2015:
Charles Busch Papers
Well-known his work as a drag performer, Charles Busch has had an extraordinarily varied career in the arts as a playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and actor. His papers include clippings, photos, and manuscript drafts of his work including his book for the musical Taboo and his Broadway play The Tale of the Allergist's Wife. This material complements the extensive documentation of Busch's work on stage recorded in the Library's Theatre on Film and Tape archive. We have just begun to process the collection, and expect it to be available to the public in 2016.
In 1970, Connecticut College student Ted Chapin wrote to Broadway producer and director Harold Prince to ask if he could observe the rehearsals of the upcoming production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies. Prince agreed, and Chapin became the production's "gofer" and was able to observe the creative process behind this landmark musical. As his college required a "report" of this experience, Chapin kept a detailed journal of his time with the show, and eventually compiled these notes into his 2003 book Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical "Follies." This year, Chapin -- now the president of the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization -- gave his notes and other papers related to Follies to the Billy Rose Theatre Division at The Library for the Performing Arts. The collection includes Chapin's journals and drafts of his book as well as a virtual goldmine of drafts of the script and lyrics for Follies as it developed during rehearsals.
Ben Edwards Papers and Designs
Ben Edwards was one of the most prolific scenic and costume designers to have worked in New York City. Over a career than spanned more than 60 years and more than 120 Broadway shows, Edwards helped to create the look and feel of Broadway in the 20th century. His output was matched only by his wife, costume designer Jane Greenwood, with whom he frequently worked and who is still actively working on Broadway today. After Edwards passed away in 1999, Greenwood and scenic designer Michael V. Sims organized and preserved his many designs and research files, and Greenwood generously donated them to the Library this year. The collection is currently being processed.
In the February 1997 issue of the trade journal Theatre Crafts International, columnist David Barbour contributed a piece on Kenneth Foy's scenic designs for the Broadway revival of Annie starring Nell Carter as Miss Hannigan. The article notes that Foy's designs are remarkable because they were "designed entirely with a computer." Foy's tool suite included software that is now standard on almost any designer's MacBook today -- Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, a CAD program -- but in the late '90s, when the web consisted of only around 100,000 websites which most users connected to via dialup modems, this was remarkable. Foy passed away this year, and his designs both digital and physical were given to the Library. The collection is now available to researchers.
Michael Korie earned a Tony nomination for his lyrics to Grey Gardens, and he has been extremely busy over the past three decades writing lyrics and libretti for musical theater and opera. This collection includes material related to his recent contributions to Broadway's Doctor Zhivago; an entirely different version of the currently running hit, Finding Neverland; and the off-Broadway Kelli O'Hara / Steven Pasquale musical that preceded The Bridges of Madison County -- Playwrights Horizon's 2013 musical Far From Heaven. Korie is still working, and we anticipate that he will continue to contribute material to this collection over time.
Richard Kornberg & Associates Records
Richard Kornberg was press agent for Joseph Papp and the Public Theater from 1976 through 1992, when he founded his own company, Richard Kornberg and Associates which continues to promote Broadway shows today (e.g. Finding Neverland). When Kornberg & Associates moved offices this year, the Library acquired many of the files from the shows the company represented in the 1990s and 2000s including Rent, Hairspray, and Jekyll & Hyde (as well as a great deal of the work produced at New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse). The collection includes press releases, memos, and plans for marketing campaigns that give unique insight into how theater was promoted in the early days of the Internet.
Michael John LaChiusa Papers
Over the past 25 years, composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa has written challenging and innovative musicals including Marie Christine, The Wild Party, See What I Wanna See, Giant, First Lady Suite and First Daughter Suite, and Hello Again (now being adapted into a film by director Tom Gustafson). In 2015 we began to acquire his papers, and though they will come to the Library in the years ahead, we hope to have a large selection of his work-to-date available to researchers by late 2016.
In December of 2008, the Library received the papers of Martin Worman, an academic and drag performer who worked with The Cockettes in the early 1970s. This year we are extremely excited to be able to complement his papers with those of one of the original Cockettes, Rumi Missabu (AKA James Bartlett), who continued to have a successful career as a drag performer both on stage and in film. The collection includes photos, posters, zines, flyers, programs and other ephemera documenting Missabu's extraordinary work.
Isaiah Sheffer was a significant theatrical force in New York City from the 1960s through the first decade of the 21st century. At Symphony Space, a beloved Manhattan performing arts venue he co-founded, Sheffer regularly presented important theatrical events including his famous day-long "Wall to Wall" concerts of the music of Richard Rodgers, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim, as well as the New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players. He also had a long career as an actor and a playwright and was especially praised for his contributions to political cabarets. The papers include Sheffer's own plays and sketches and correspondence, and office records from his time at Symphony Space. For more about this collection, read Annemarie van Roessel's post about the acquisition here.
Elaine Stritch Papers
Actress Elaine Stritch is perhaps best known for her iconic role as Joanne, singing about the "Ladies Who Lunch" in Stephen Sondheim's musical Company, but her career stretched over nearly seventy years and included film, television, cabaret, and nineteen Broadway shows. Her career is well-documented in the personal and professional correspondence, photographs, production and promotional materials, clippings, scripts, and recordings which were recently given to the Theater Division. The collection is still being processed as of this writing, but will be available to researchers very soon.
If you would like to examine these collections, or any of the other millions of objects at the library, we'd be happy to assist you. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to seeing you, and wish you all the happiest of holidays and a prosperous new year.