Scope and arrangement
The Stuart Ostrow papers chiefly document his professional life. These papers demonstrate the deep commitment Ostrow had to the theater not just as a business, but as an art form. His drive to support shows and artists in which he believed is evident in his producing practices, giving struggling shows time to build an audience and taking chances on little known playwrights. His passion for intellectual theater as well as the development of new works is evident throughout his correspondence. The general administrative and production files make up the bulk of this collection, and contain correspondence, scripts, scores, photographs, scrapbooks, and other materials pertaining to Ostrow's work in theater. There is also material documenting Ostrow's Musical Theatre Lab, artwork and scenic design renderings, correspondence regarding various committees on which Ostrow served, publication files containing drafts and permissions for three of his books, and some family papers.
The Stuart Ostrow papers are arranged in nine series:
This series contains files kept by Ostrow in his capacity as a producer. In chronological order, these contain primarily correspondence, as well as notes, business files, projects for consideration, memos, proposals, and other materials related to the day-to-day workings of his production office. There is a heavy focus on procuring capitalization and the search for creative teams and potential artists. Of interest are the pitches playwrights and their agents submitted in an effort to enlist Ostrow as a producer on their projects. Ostrow mingled business with his personal relationships and often a letter pertaining to a contract is followed by an introduction of a lyricist to a composer with whom he might collaborate, or a thank you note for an invitation to an opening night. Honors and awards, including correspondence from the White House in recognition of Ostrow's achievements, can be found at the end of this series.
The productions series contains files relating to specific productions or in-development projects (properties). They consist of audition notes, budgets, cast lists, contact sheets, contracts, correspondence, costume sketches, financial materials, photographs (both production and candid), playbills, programs, production notes, public relations materials, research materials, scripts, and scores. Of note in this series are rare production shots of Robert Preston in the flop We Take the Town and a series of letters from poet Archibald MacLeish who wrote Scratch. Also unique in this series are scripts marked with the stage manager's cues for the final production, drafts of shows in development, and often detailed audition notes - a record of the many complicated steps in the production process.
This series holds sound and video recordings, such as live audio recordings of shows Ostrow produced including an early reading of 1776, Anthony Hopkins in the London production of M. Butterfly, an audio recording of American Passion (1983), and La Bête (1991). There are also unreleased demo recordings of 1776, Doll, as well as a recording of Stephen Sondheim singing Act I songs from The Girls Upstairs, which later became Follies.
Videos consist of tapes of lectures Ostrow gave at various venues, a recording of the 1995 Doll reading, and the press reels for M. Butterfly.
Founded in 1973, the Musical Theatre Lab is a nonprofit workshop for experimental theatre. Originating in New York, the Lab relocated to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., then the University of Houston when Ostrow became head of the Musical Theatre Department. This series contains correspondence related to the development and day-to-day business of the Lab and playbills and rare photographs from many of the Lab's productions.
This series also includes video recordings, including musical theater collaborations and lab classes from 1995 and 1999.
This series contains correspondence relating to various committees on which Ostrow served over the years, including the Pulitzer Prize committee, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and others. Includes offers for membership, invitations to sit on boards, and programs and flyers.
The publications series has drafts, correspondence, and permissions relating to three of Ostrow's books: A Producer's Broadway Journey (1999), Thank You Very Much (2002) and Present at the Creation, Leaping in the Dark and Going Against the Grain (2005).
Series VI has letters and cards from Ostrow's three children, fan mail to his wife Ann Ostrow Gilbert from her years as a performer, as well as Christmas, anniversary and birthday greetings from friends and family, and well wishes from Stuart and Ann's wedding in 1957.
This series holds set design renderings from many of Ostrow's Broadway productions.
Stuart Ostrow's Chronological files are comprised of day-to-day files Ostrow maintained on his computer between 1984 and 2002. They consist mainly of outgoing letters to friends and collaborators and act as a de facto diary. They offer great insight into Ostrow's thoughts, professional activities, and personal life. These letters tell the story of being a hands-on producer: lining up funding, stars, and venues; handling the creators; creating industry buzz; promoting the production in the press; and most of all keeping all those pieces in place. Throughout the period covered in Chronological Files, Ostrow was often developing multiple projects at one time, so files on a particular play or musical may be spread out over several years.
The letters are all outgoing, but outgoing emails from 2000 and 2001 often include incoming emails. Ostrow's letters mainly deal with theatrical productions he and his friends were working on, or considering working on, including 1040, La Bête, Doll, Face Value, M. Butterfly, and Sweet Smell of Success. Other documents related to productions include proposals, agreements, contracts, budgets, royalty statements, and notes. Ostrow's letters also cover more general theatre industry topics such as theatrical organizations, special events, conferences, and new publications on theatre. Of particular interest are Ostrow's letters regarding the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for which he served on the jury.
Ostrow's memoir, A Producer's Broadway Journey, is also documented extensively in his chronological files, with correspondence, proposals, drafts, and excerpts. There are drafts of individual chapters as well as the bibliography, index, and titles page. Ostrow's second book, Thank You Very Much: The Little Guide to Auditioning for the Musical Theatre, is documented less extensively, with drafts of the book and letters to prospective publishers.
Ostrow's teaching career at the University of Houston is a major subject in his files from 1995 to 2002. In addition to discussing his classes and the productions at the University of Houston Musical Theatre Lab in his letters, they are documented with syllabi, course notes, assignments, lecture notes, scripts, and programs. The process of establishing and managing the Institute for Advanced Study of Musical Theatre (IASMT) dominates Ostrow's files from 1999 to 2001.