Performing Arts

From 19th century American vaudeville to 20th century British experimental theatre, materials in the performing arts category form research collection emphasizing stage productions. The personal papers of theatrical personalities and the archives of theatre groups and agencies are collected, as well as ephemeral and promotional materials.

Collections reflecting experimental theatre’s challenges to convention range from the Ballantine papers, chronicling the development of the Provincetown Players in the early 20th century, to the archives of the Living Theatre, whose purpose was to advocate anarchy and radical social change beginning in the 1950’s. Other theatre groups and collectives focus on alternative theatrical methods: the archives of the Bread and Puppet Theatre, for example, show their efforts at communicating through puppets and realia, rather than verbal dialog, and the Firehouse Theatre archives was interested in new staging techniques. The Joint Stock Theatre Group archives show the efforts made towards “new” writing, and in the powerful collaboration between playwright, director, and actors. Radical political commentary is reflected in the collections of the San Francisco Mime Troupe and the Squat Theatre, whose productions were powerful enough to force their exile from Hungary.

Theatrical agents’ archives provide a wealth of research potential. Arthur Bertram was a theatrical agent and business manager for theatres, touring companies, and individual actors. His clients included Mrs. Patrick Campbell, Marie Tempest, and Henry Irving. Toby Cole operated as a theatrical-literary agent in New York City, representing such notables as Saul Bellow, Zero Mostel, and Sam Shepard. The Universal Movement Theatre Repertory was the only booking agency for experimental theatre groups in the United States and Europe.

Playscripts form the bulk of 19th century British and American manuscript collections, including acting editions, sides, working copies, and prompt copies for a variety of genres. Theatre programs, set designs, photographs, playbills, posters, and realia complement manuscripts, papers and archival records. In addition, there are extensive materials relating to dance and music, with an emphasis on ballet and opera.

There are no geographical or language limits to the Performing Arts collection, although the bulk of the materials are in the English language and originate from either America or Great Britiain. Over 650 linear feet of materials are collected in all formats, and active solicitation continues for a variety of open collections. Related materials can be found under the headings of Language and Literature and Political Science.

Performing Arts Manuscripts