Scope and arrangement
The American Place Theatre Company records document almost five decades of theatrical work produced by the American Place Theatre and the administrative activities of the non-profit theater. The bulk of the records consist of production files that span from 1963 until the 2008-2009 season. The records also consist of Wynn Handman's office files which reflect Handman's role as artistic director; administrative files that represent the day-to-day operations of the American Place Theatre and include the minutes of the board of trustees; submissions of scripts for consideration; posters; and electronic records. Office files were maintained by Handman and various administrative staff members, and researchers should look in both Series I: Wynn Handman Files and Series II: Administrative Files when researching the American Place Theatre's administration. Additional files are fragmentary and reflect audience development, as well as financial and legal concerns. The Literature to Life program, and the American Place Theatre's shifted focus to educational programming, are represented in this collection.
Sound recordings contain recordings of productions, music used during performances, sound cues, radio spots, and interviews. Notable sound recordings include sound effects created by director Alan Arkin for Rubbers and Yanks 3 Detroit 0 Top of the Seventh, an interview with actress Rita Jenrette on her role in A Girl's Guide to Chaos, Donald Barthelme reading excerpts from Great Days, and interviews with Handman. Video recordings contain footage of Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: A Celebration of Fifteen Years of Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships for American Playwrights; productions like The Amazin' Casey Stengel, Dog Logic, The War in Heaven; film clips shown at When in Doubt, Act Like Myrna Loy; and interviews with Eric Bogosian, John Leguizamo, Aasif Mandvi, Jonathon Reynolds, and Roger Rosenblatt. Inquiries regarding audio and video materials may be directed to the Billy Rose Theatre Division (firstname.lastname@example.org). Audio/visual materials may be subject to preservation evaluation and migration prior to access.
The American Place Theatre Company records are arranged in seven series:
- 1964-200930 boxes
This series is arranged in alphabetical order and contains files that document over four decades of Wynn Handman's position as artistic director and chief financial officer of the American Place Theatre. The bulk of the series is made up of correspondence, but it also contains appointment books, awards, notes, photographs, and subject files.
Handman's extensive correspondence is arranged in chronological order. The majority of the correspondence consists of carbon copies of outgoing letters regarding programming at the theater and Handman's fundraising efforts. Handman played a central role in fundraising for the theater and letters soliciting donations are consistent and plentiful. He would often write personal letters to donors asking them to underwrite a particular production or project. These letters are highly detailed and give good overviews of the projects. Handman also frequently wrote replies to critics and editors regarding their reviews of American Place Theatre produced plays. Additionally, the correspondence includes incoming letters from playwrights accompanying scripts for submission, and from former staff members and students requesting references. Handman received birthday and holiday cards from directors, actors, and former students demonstrating the close relationships he cultivated at the theater and at his acting studio. Correspondence from the 2000s primarily consists of invitations to events and holiday cards. Statements from writers convey what working with the American Place Theatre meant to writers like William Hauptman, Robert Lowell, Jonathon Reynolds, Ronald Ribman, and Steve Tesich. Also included is correspondence to and from Paula Vogel, Handman's assistant in the late 1970s, written on Handman's behalf.
Awards consist of three Audelco awards in recognition for excellence in black theater, a Cornerstone Theater Company commemorative award, and an Obie award for sustained achievement. Typescripts of speeches can be found in the Georgetown University and University of Miami files, where Handman gave a speech at the dedication of the Gonda Theatre and upon receiving an honorary doctorate, respectively. The New York Times file regards a letter Handman wrote to the New York Times replying to the exchange between theater critic Walter Kerr and Howard Klein, then Director of Arts at the Rockefeller Foundation, on Klein's rebuttal of Kerr's negative review of the play, Isadora Duncan Sleeps with the Russian Navy.
- 1963-201043 boxes
This series is arranged alphabetically by file title and contains material documenting the administrative and governing functions of the American Place Theater, including audience development, fundraising, programming, and the activities of the Board of Trustees. There is a small amount of subject files, as well as legal and financial material.
Audience development was a constant undertaking by American Place Theatre staff and is represented by yearly membership campaigns that sought to keep current members and attract new sponsorship, and to generate group sales with schools and cultural organizations. Development files include the production files for benefits, a 'diaspora' letter sent out to Wynn Handman's former students requesting support, and foundation files. The activities of the board of trustees are represented in minutes that contain annual reports, budgets and balance sheets provide a broad overview of the American Place Theatre's activities from 1963 to 2008.
Administrative staff maintained an almost complete run of programs from American Place Theatre productions, including programs from series like the American Humorist Series, Hearing Impaired Project, Literature to Life, SubPlot Cabaret space, and The Women's Project. From the 1970s until the late 1980s, the American Place Theatre promoted the recognition of playwrights by putting a photograph of the playwright on the cover of each program. In addition to the programs, there are administrative files on many of the above series. The file on the American Humorists' Series contains material relating to humorists like Hank Bates, Roy Blount, Jr., and Bill Irwin.
Additional material consists of files on collaborations with other organizations, partial alphabetical runs of reader reports and contracts, and licensee files regarding space rentals of American Place Theatre's performance spaces by other theater companies and cultural organizations, and staffing files. Files on organizations include mass mailings, publications, memoranda, and press releases from local and national theaters and professional organizations. The Harold Clurman file contains typescripts of the opening remarks Clurman made concerning various playwrights at Come Out, Come Out, Wherever You Are: A Celebration of Fifteen Years of Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships for American Playwrights. Photographs document the exterior and interior of the American Place Theatre's 111 West 46th Street location, special events, and mock-ups of program covers. Notable subjects include Wynn Handman, Harry Jackson, Donald Jones, and Myrna Loy, and unidentified members of The Women's Project.
Additional administrative files are held in Series VII: Electronic Records.
- 1963-2009213 boxes
The production files are arranged chronologically by season. Within each season, files are first arranged alphabetically by play, and followed by series, such as the American Humorists' Series, the Jubilee!: Festival of Black Culture, the Women's Project, Works-In-Progress, as well as productions staged for the Subplot Cabaret space, later called the First Floor Series. The production files reflect both the administrative and the creative aspects of the productions and may contain box office reports, budgets, correspondence, contracts, programs, reviews, as well as casting files, photographs, scripts, set designs, sheet music. The files document the development of a playwright's work at the APT. Often productions were first performed as a work-in-progress and then produced in full later that season, like Frank Chin's The Chickencoop Chinaman, or in the following season, like Elaine Jackson's Cockfight. The files also contain works that the APT began to develop, but were ultimately unproduced. This occurred more frequently in later seasons as the APT moved away from performing straight plays to adapting works of fiction for its Literature to Life program. Additionally, the files contain special events, such as memorial or laudatory productions.
The files for productions produced in the 1970s to the 1990s are the most complete. Most of the files do not contain correspondence with the playwrights with the exception of files for Cockfight, The Fuehrer Bunker, Father Uxbridge Wants to Marry, The Grinding Machine, The Kid, Letters Home, Memory of Whiteness, Seduced, and all of Frank Chin's plays. The 1975-1976 Season files for The Old Glory contain photocopies of Robert Lowell's notes regarding casting and the files for Juana La Loca contain Mary Lee Settle's rehearsal notes. Files for Do Lord Remember Me, Five on the Black Hand Side, The Old Glory, The Radiant City, Seduced, and Zora Neale Hurston contain study guides geared towards elementary and secondary school audience members. Black Boy, The Karl Marx Play, The Old Glory, and Who's Got His Own toured and arrangements for theses tours can be found in their files. The files for Coming Through include paper leaves with audiences' responses to the play that share stories of their own ancestors' immigration to the United States. Journey of the 5th Horse files contain fan letters written to the male lead, Dustin Hoffman. The files also demonstrate the controversy surrounding certain productions by the number of negative and positive letters APT received regarding Black Bog Beast Bait, Cowboy Mouth, and La Turista.
Photographs, as noted in the following container list, can be found throughout the production files and include works by Betty Brown, Philip Bruns, Martha Holmes, and James Matthews. Subjects include Lloyd Battista, Marilyn Coleman, Michael Douglas, Virginia Downing, Alice Drummond, Faye Dunaway, Laura Esterman, Vincent Gardenia, Philip Baker Hall, Leonard Jackson, Bella Jarrett, Robert Earl Jones, Raul Julia, Patrick McVey, William H. Macy, Norman Matlock, Gene Reynolds, Andrew Robinson, Marian Seldes, Martin Shakar, Lilia Skala, Lois Smith, Michael Tolan, and Rip Torn. Unsorted photographs and slides are of various APT productions such as Baba Goya, The Chickencoop Chinaman, Fingernails Blue as Flowers, The Karl Marx Play, The Kid, Lake of the Woods, Metamorphosis, The Old Glory, and Sleep.
Additional production files are held in Series VII: Electronic Records.
- 1953-200814 boxes
The scripts are arranged alphabetically by title and consist of scripts that were submitted to, and may have been produced by, the American Place Theatre (APT). Some scripts are accompanied by letters from the playwright, most notably Jane Gennaro and Robert Lowell, and other scripts contain reader reports by APT staff members.
- 1965-19815 boxes
The scrapbooks are arranged in chronological order and then alphabetical order. Chronological scrapbooks cover a range of time, while the scrapbooks in alphabetical order represent specific productions. The scrapbooks primarily contain news clippings and press releases. The scrapbook for Hogan's Goat contains two transcripts of Maxine Keith's WNYC radio show, correspondence, and photographs.
- 1963-199910 boxes 2 oversized folders
This series is made up of both photographic posters and non-photographic publicity posters. The photographic posters are large format photographs, many labeled with production information, that were displayed at various times at the American Place Theatre. These photographs are mostly shots of productions, but also include staged photographs of cast members and a photograph of Wynn Handman directing a rehearsal for the play Christy. The posters of playwrights include photographs of Sam Shepherd, Steve Tesich, Charlie L. Russell, Joyce Carol Oates, Ronald Ribman, Rochelle Owens, and Phillip Hayes Dean. Additionally, there are photographs of St. Clements Church and the dedication at the new 111 West 46th Street theater, including a picture of Wynn Handman and Sidney Lanier receiving the Margo Jones Award from the sitting mayor, John Lindsay. Publicity posters are for various American Place Theatre productions and include a poster for George Tabori's The Cannibals, signed by the cast. Additional posters are held in Series VII: Electronic Records.
- 1995-20018 media objects 585.67 MB of material
The electronic records are arranged by chronological order and include both office files and production files. Disks containing graphics usually also contain various graphic files that make up a composite image.