Another announcement of a major gift to an institution in the U.K. — this time it is a transatlantic transfer.  A private collector and playwright from the United States, John Wolfson, is donating a valuable collection of early editions of Shakespeare (including a copy of the first folio) to Shakespeare’s Globe, which is planning to open its own library.


Image credit: British Library G.11631 title page


Is Alan Bennett a “literary figure” or a “man of the theatre?”  Or, in American parlance, is he really to be more properly regarded as “a right broad?”  Read all about the motivation behind his recent donation of his papers to the Bodleian in today’s Guardian here.

Image credit: “Borough Arms” cigarette card, Arents Collection, NYPL Digital Gallery ID# 118359.

Eugene O’Neill childhood portrait

While not of strictly archival interest (though the event is being sponsored in part by the O’Neill Project of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library), we did notice a poster announcing the tenth anniversary of the O’Neill Festival when stumbling past the Provincetown Playhouse earlier this morning. New Yorkers and visitors with an iron constitution can take in ten nights of free Eugene O’Neill-related productions, readings, and screenings at the storied venue, beginning this Friday, January 4, 2008. You also might want to check out the Eugene O’Neill at Yale myspace page.

Image credit: NYPL Digital Image ID# TH-42003

This morning brings news reports of another important performing arts archival acquisition. The British Library has purchased the complete archive of playwright Harold Pinter for £1.1 million. The complete text of the BL press release may be read here.

It is instructive to note the different manner in which the story has been covered in Great Britain and the United States respectively, with the Guardian being representative of the former and the New York Times of the latter. The Guardian emphasizes the heroic efforts that went into “saving” the collection for a (presumably grateful) nation, while the NYT blandly, but decisively, eliminates any such display of emotion and only includes the story in its “Arts, Briefly” section.

John McMartin and Norbert Leo Butz

Now that the Broadway stagehands’ strike is history, another feel good archives story has emerged just in time for the holidays. Or is it really a feel good story for archives, after all?

Yesterday saw the Broadway premiere of an adaptation of a previously unperformed and unpublished play by Mark Twain, Is He Dead? (circa 1898). As widely reported, the manuscript was “rediscovered” by scholar, Shelly Fisher Fishkin at the University of California, Berkeley’s Bancroft Library several years ago. An illustrated edition of the Twain text was published by the University of California Press in 2003 as part of its Jumping Frog series. Now, a new version of the play, adapted by that resurrection specialist, David Ives, of Encores! fame (many of you may have heard him as a panelist at the Theatre Library Association’s Performance Reclamation symposium last February), has opened to largely positive reviews at New York’s Lyceum Theatre.

While the resultant good publicity may generate a few more sales of the book and perhaps some additional donations to the Bancroft’s worthy Mark Twain Papers and Project and Mark Twain Project Online, so far, no one has bothered to thank the archivists for preserving and providing access to the original material.

Image credit: John McMartin and Norbert Leo Butz in Is He Dead?; photograph by Joan Marcus (from the show’s official Web site).

Still, New York dance history enthusiasts face a difficult choice tomorrow evening, with both the aforementioned Don Quixote film screening at the Lincoln Center NYPL and the latest installment in the History Matters series, “Merce in the 1970s” scheduled to take place just about concurrently. Both events are likely to be SRO (and probably will attract a slighly different crowd).

Meanwhile, as reported recently by the BBC News, a “lost” one act play by Noel Coward, The Better Half, was uncovered by two Welsh scholars while conducting research at the British Library. The text of the play will be published in the late Fall and the work will be performed at the Union Theatre in Southwark, London in October. For a more detailed account, have a look at the British Theatre Guide.