NY Public Library's Lewis and Dorothy Cullman Curator Doug Reside on the Highlights of 2016
BroadwayWorld 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, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts on: Political Satires in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts' Theatre on highlights from 2016.
At the end of 2016, references to Hamilton may have started to feel a little stale, but I'm the kind of guy who believes that with a good toasting and a little hummus, four-day-old bagels are still perfectly edible, so I will take the risk. As I complete my second full year as the Curator for the Billy Rose Theatre Division at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, I'm struck again and again by the weighty responsibility that "history has it's eyes [through] me." Ideally, my work (and that of my colleagues) creates a lens so clear and well-formed that the future's vision of our present is undistorted. However, we all live with the knowledge that the ideal is an impossible dream. There is a lot of theatre happening everyday, and because even the best archives have finite resources, a lot of it will be lost forever. Despite our best efforts, curatorial selections always impose, in some way, a personal bias on posterity. I hope (and do believe) that we chose wisely this year. If your travels in 2017 lead you to the New York area, I invite you to come see some of the gifts given to you, the Public, this year. Some highlights include:
Rachel Crothers was one of the most prolific and successful playwrights of the early 20th century. She was born in Bloomington, Illinois in the 1870s to a mother who would become one of the first female physicians in the state. Crothers moved to New York in 1896, and, after a decade, found international commercial success in 1906 with The Three of Us, which featured with Ethel Barrymore in the starring role in London. Over the next four decades, until the beginning of World War II, Crothers wrote over 25 plays, many of which were major hits. This collection was given to us by the Mint Theatre which, in 2006, revived Crothers's Susan and God, and A Little Journey in 2011. Researchers will find production material (mostly photographs and programs) for 18 of Crothers's shows, three scripts, and personal photographs featuring many celebrities of the early 20th century including Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
Rose Leiman Goldemberg is best known for writing the 1984 television movie Burning Bed, about a woman (played by Farrah Fawcett) who killed her abusive husband by, as the title suggests, setting fire to his bed while he slept. Goldemberg has also had a successful career in theatre, penning eleven plays and musicals including Letters Home, based on the correspondence between Sylvia Plath and her mother, and Picon Pie, a musical about the actress Molly Picon (who played the matchmaker in the film version of Fiddler on the Roof). The collection documents Goldemberg's writing process with many script drafts, research files, and correspondence with collaborators.
Years before her Tony Award-winning work on Disney's The Lion King, director and designer Julie Taymor established her reputation for creating original, complex, and beautiful musically-infused theatre with small, off-off-broadway shows like her Juan Darien, originally produced by Music-Theatre Group. Over the past four and a half decades, Music-Theatre Group has nurtured the careers of many of the greatest theatrical artists of our time including Elizabeth Swados, Diane Paulus, and Eve Ensler. This large collection, donated by director Diane Wondisford, documents the history of the company from its founding until 2011.
One of the greatest treasures of the Theatre Division is our voluminous collection of photographs. Since the founding of the Division, we have collected the negatives, prints, and slides of most of the major theatrical photographers of the 20th and 21st century, and this year we are very excited to make available to our researchers the work of John Wulp, who photographed the work of Merce Cunningham and many theatrical personalities in latter half of the 20th century. While the photographs alone are worth a trip to the Library, Wulp is a true polymath and has also worked as a painter, a scenic designer, and writer, and all of this work is represented in the collection.
In November of 2015, The Rothschilds, the final theatrical collaboration between composer Jerry Bock and lyricist Sheldon Harnick, was revived at the Off-Broadway York Theatre Company with a slightly revised script by the original book-writer, Sherman Yellen. In February of 2015 Yellen wrote a blog about the show for the Library, and this year he donated all of his scripts and papers to the Theatre division. Along with several drafts of The Rothschilds, the collection features Yellen's documentation of his collaboration with Richard Rodgers on the musical Rex and copies of Yellen's many other plays and television scripts.
Currently being processed
The Designs and Papers of Derek McLane:
Derek McLane is one of the most successful and prolific scenic designers working today. Last season, his work was featured on Broadway in Fully Committed, Noises Off, China Doll, and in the long-running hit Beautiful: The Carole King Musical. Like many designers working today, much of McLane's work is now created digitally, and so the majority of his post-2003 designs are preserved as Photoshop and Vectorworks files. When the collection is fully processed, these files will be available to researchers on a secured laptop in the special collections reading room.
The Papers of Elizabeth Swados:
2016 began with the sad news of the passing of lyricist, composer, and playwright Elizabeth Swados in January. Swados was an important voice in musical theater from the 1970s until her death who introduced cutting-edge musical styles into musical theatre. Lin-Manuel Miranda appeared in a college production of Runaways at Wesleyan University and has publicly praised the musical for its pioneering use of hip-hop in 1978. The musical was revived at Encores this summer. This year, the York Theatre Company presented a somewhat abridged version of Swados's Nightclub Cantata. The collection features materials relating to all of Swados's theatrical work, including the aforementioned shows as well as Alice in Concert, a musical loosely based on the Lewis Carroll Alice stories which featured Meryl Streep in the original production at The Public Theater, and her 2005 musical adaptation of Ubu Roi titled Jabu.