November 2009

So concludes,  Ben Ratliff of The New York Times in closing his piece on the recent release of selections from archival recordings of the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival via the Wolfgang’s Vault site.

I think I’ve held off blogging about that company previously because I genuinely do not know how I feel about it.  Since I’m too lazy and harried at the moment to do any justice to the subject, I’ll just leave it to you, the reader, to respond for now.


Yesterday just seems to have been a banner news day, also bringing us a report from Ephemeral Archives’ favorite theatre critic, the Guardian’s Chris Wilkinson.  In his latest Noises Off column, Wilkinson points us all in the direction of a new online resource, Theatricalia, which he describes as being “a kind of IMDB for theatre.”  Possibly it may have been more accurate to describe this new venture as an attempt to become the IBDB or Lortel Archives of UK theatre productions, but we are grateful to be made aware of this site all the same and promise to explore it further.

A savvy respondent to Mr. Wilkinson’s piece also directs readers to the London Theatre Database as a useful source of information for recent productions.

ziziI’m certain I’ve remarked before on the mingled sensations of regret/relief I feel from being forced (due to time constraints) to subscribe to the Archives & Archivists listserv in digest form, rather than in direct mode.   It’s definitely a trade-off.

You may imagine my surprise this morning when I eyeballed the digest listings and discovered a brief thread started yesterday by an inquiry from a photo archivist who could not identify the subject of an autographed photograph, a scan of which he posted, as being  Zizi Jeanmaire.  While I was saddened (and even more saddened that the question originated from Indiana University, where Jeanmaire’s former colleague, Violette Verdy, is a distinguished member of the faculty) that anyone was unfamiliar with the work of Mlle. Jeanmaire, it was an honest question.   More dismaying were the dubious sources that were cited in response.

Might I humbly put in a plug for the SAA Performing Arts Roundtable’s own listserv as your one-stop source for thoughtful responses (and excellent referrals) to questions relating to performing arts and archives?

Be that as it may, it was pleasant to be reminded of Jeanmaire in the midst of all the professional musings and announcements.  To New Yorkers of a certain age, Zizi undoubtedly is best known for her role as the flighty ballerina in the film, Hans Christian Andersen (1952).  That film, which was frequently shown (over two nights!) during the holidays (although which holiday I would be hard pressed to remember), was relentlessly promoted by WPIX through repeated showings of its trailer.  But her long and varied career, of course, encompassed the worlds of ballet, cabaret, and the Broadway stage, as well as film.

The above partly-identified publicity photograph from the NYPL Digital Gallery site, may well be for her 1954 Broadway clunker, The Girl in Pink Tights (choreographed, incidentally, by Agnes de Mille).  I don’t think I will go back and listen to the cast album, but I was inspired to check out one of our library’s copies of Black Tights.  Une tempête dans un verre d’eau.

Image credit: NYPL Digital ID TH-23695


Rehearsal photographs with Agnes de Mille and unidentified dancers

Sincere apologies yet again for the lack of posts recently.  You may imagine that we were very, very busy with Archives Month.  Here’s hoping that we will be a little more on the ball once more now that November has rolled around.

Short notice, but for all you fortunate New Yorkers, this Sunday offers a very special program at the 92nd Street Y in which the estimable and plucky New York Theatre Ballet will present “reconstructed works by Agnes de Mille from her Broadway and concert repertoire, followed by a panel discussion with Diana Byer, Gemze de Lappe and Elena Zahlmann discussing de Mille’s contributions to theater dance and her lexicon of dance gesture.”

We’d sure be there if we could!

While we’re at it, could anyone take a stab at identifying the individuals from the images?  It looks most likely to be a publicity/rehearsal photograph from one of de Mille’s Broadway shows from the 1950s, but it is hard to make out anyone but de Mille with any certainty in the tiny format.  Maybe you have sharper eyes.

Image credit: NYPL Digital Gallery ID TH 07969