Scope and arrangement
The New York Shakespeare Festival Collection (1954-1992) measures 851 linear feet and consists of scripts, notes, correspondence, inter-office memoranda, production materials, reports, financial records, photographs, printed matter such as programs, brochures and posters, and other memorabilia. The records reflect the origin and activities of the New York Shakespeare Festival, its general administration, and the staging of its productions, including their creation, management, booking, and promotion. Original stage and costume design materials are absent. Also absent are the files of the Casting Office, except in the form of carbon copies in other series. There are also gaps in the files of the Associate Producer. Contracts were removed and require special permission of the curator. Oral history materials and some correspondence are restricted until the year 2043 in order to protect the privacy of individual persons.
The New York Shakespeare Festival records are arranged in fourteen series:
The Administrative Office files are from the office of the producer, Joseph Papp. They contain correspondence, memoranda, meeting minutes, reports, subject files and clippings that document virtually every aspect of the New York Shakespeare Festival's operations, procedures, and programs. Certain functions within the NYSF's operations, such as fundraising (Development Office), eventually became their own departments, maintaining separate files. However, researchers will find some types of documents in this series that are also found in other series, such as Stage Manager's Reports (General Manager). The records of Papp's life before the founding of the Shakespeare Festival make up Series XIII Personal Papers. Photographs of his childhood and family were separated and form part of the Photograph series. The files contain voluminous correspondence between Papp and various city agencies, including the Dept. of Parks, the Mayor's Office, the Board of Education, and the Board of Estimate. The records also contain correspondence and information files concerning playwrights, directors, theater groups, lawyers, and unions. The records of the Administrative Office contain personnel files of administrative and production staff and communications between the producer and departmental staff within the NYSF. Virtually every issue affecting the NYSF can be found in this series, as most correspondence went first across Papp's desk. The Administrative Office files document the earliest activities of Joseph Papp including the formation of the New York Shakespeare Festival. The records document Papp's conflict with Robert Moses over the concept of free Shakespeare in the Park, the acquisition and restoration of the Astor Library and its renovation as the Public Theater, the fiscal crisis of the 1970s and the NYSF's four seasons at Lincoln Center. The records reveal Papp's ideas for productions and seasonal planning, special programs such as the Mobile Theater and the School Tour, and his plans for the future of the Festival. The records indicate Papp's personal interests, trips taken abroad, engagements accepted and declined, and his involvement in and endorsement of various causes affecting theater, such the NEA controversy, and other social causes. There are also files related to Papp's ideas about his successor, JoAnne Akalaitis.
The records of the Play Department document the origins, establishment and activities of the department. The files contain annotated scripts and rewrites, correspondence, play reports, contracts, casting notes, press releases, press lists, production summaries, budget worksheets, personnel files, programming notes, subject files, and clippings. Photographs and oversized materials were removed and comprise separate series. The staff of the Play Department routed and prioritized hundreds of scripts sent to the Festival every month. Gail Merrifield Papp reported to Joseph Papp about promising projects and worked closely with playwrights or composers to develop productions. It is common to find scripts heavily annotated by both Joseph Papp and Gail Merrifield Papp.
The Scripts series consists primarily of photocopies of scripts for the plays and musicals and other works produced, co-produced, or sponsored by the New York Shakespeare Festival. The series also contains copies of published books and scripts, as well as historical research material. The scripts were maintained by the NYSF as "clean copies" for reference purposes and were prepared by the staff of the Scripts/Archives Office. There are often multiple versions of a script as it evolved from workshop to reading and finally to a full performance. It is common to see post-production versions of a script. There are only a few examples of original typescripts or scripts with light annotations or revisions. For original versions of scripts with revisions and inserts, see the Play Department series. For scripts used for staging, see the Production Materials series.
The records of the Production Materials series (1959-1992) contain prompt books, lighting plots, ground plans, costume plots, set designs, electrics, prop running sheets, prop preset sheets, prop inventories, light cue sheets, and electrical layouts. Oversized materials were removed to the Oversized Materials series. The records reflect all physical aspects of the staging of a production. These materials should allow a researcher to properly reproduce a director's interpretation. The central functional item for each production in this series is the prompt book. The prompt book contains light cues, sound cues, and stage directions. Changes in script or a player's actions are written in the margins of a page or added as attachments to the script. A play that requires a lot of movement or contains a large cast will usually have a separate blocking script. A musical with dancing or fight sequences, such as A Chorus Line or The Mystery of Edwin Drood, may have several annotated scripts to complete the director's vision of the production. Other materials most often found represent the purely technical aspects of a production, such as lighting plots, costume plots, property information, floor plans, electrics and set designs. Related documents include prop running sheets, prop preset sheets, prop inventory, light cue sheets, and electrical layouts. The records range from Julius Caesar (1959) to Fires in the Mirror (1992). Some productions were meticulously documented such as The Mystery of Edwin Drood and Fires in the Mirror, while Fishing by Michael Weller contains only a script. The plays done before the mid-1970s are in general poorly documented. Success and scale may have been a factor in the preservation of production materials. Long-running or successful shows, such as Runaways and For Colored Girls have copious memoranda and production notes. Large productions, such as Pirates of Penzance, and other multi-venue productions (road companies, Broadway, and Mobile Theater) tend to be well documented.
The records of the General Manager's Office are divided into two parts representing the regular programming (Public Theater and Delacorte) and extended programming (Broadway, tours, theater exchanges, etc). The records contain files for each show of every season between 1968 and 1991.
The records of the Development Office of the New York Shakespeare Festival reflect the origins, establishment and fundraising activities of the office between 1955 and 1989. The records include correspondence, memoranda, donor dossiers, meeting agendas, form letters, mailing lists, press releases, guest lists, attendance lists, invitation lists, seating charts, form letters, grant files, budgets, and clippings. The earliest records are solicitation letters by Papp to various political officials, executives, society people, and theater and movie professionals. There are many letters of support to Papp regarding free Shakespeare and a permanent home in Central Park. Notable correspondents include John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Tony Randall, and Julie Harris. NYSF actively coordinated fundraising events to promote the Festival's activities, to win financial support from donors, and to recruit new ones. The opening of an NYSF show or an emergency fundraising campaign, such as those that accompanied New York City fiscal crises, often occasioned fundraising events. Papp received much support from the New York City Mayors Wagner and Lindsay. Papp formed the Mayor's Committee for Free Shakespeare in 1960. The Committee, which met regularly to plan fundraising events, was composed of and chaired by members of the Board of Trustees. Members, their wives, and other society people helped to bring in new donors. They hosted receptions in their homes, in restaurants, and even in Gracie Mansion to plan for fundraising campaigns and arrange NYSF events. During the late 1950s and early 1960s Joseph Papp, with the help of Herta Danis, developed a donor base of foundations, corporations, and individuals. In the 1970s a more systematic approach was taken in maintaining and monitoring donations. The Development Office was established to organize and facilitate communication with patrons, founders, benefactors, and other members of the "honor roll". There was a dedicated effort to win pledges from individuals attending performances and to sign up subscribers and sponsors. An increase in grant writing is evident during the 1970s. The grant files show how, each year, the NYSF described its own mission and role in society.
The files also reveal the NYSF's increasing interest in producing original musical theater, especially during the eighties. There are voluminous files of correspondence, grant files and proposals to foundations, corporations, and government sources. The files even contain personal appeals from Papp to individuals, such as LuEsther Mertz.
The records of the Press Office consist of correspondence, memoranda, press lists, invitations, promotional materials (printed matter), program copy, advertising copy, press releases, and clippings. All photographs, primarily production stills and cast head shots, were removed to the Photographs series.
The Archives Office was meant to function as a repository of master copies of information for quick reference about the NYSF's activities, and was maintained by Archives Director Serge Mogilat. Papp often used this information for fund-raising purposes. Staff and production lists, logs, and inventories in the Archives Office files document the history of the Festival. Programs, flyers, brochures, clippings and, in some cases, scripts, are included among the printed matter. Miscellaneous events refer to guest performances, benefits, celebrations, political forums, memorial services, and the early Latin American Theatre Festivals.
The records of the Finance Office of the New York Shakespeare Festival span the years 1955-1991, and document the fiscal situation of the NYSF as a whole and of particular productions. The files include general ledgers for the NYSF's regular and extended programming, financial statements, auditor's reports, minutes of the Board of Trustees, administrative files, and miscellaneous financial records. The financial history of the New York Shakespeare Festival is recorded from the first hand-written ledger which spans the years 1955 to 1958, through 1991, when the ledgers run to hundreds of computer generated pages. The budget of the Festival grew over the years as they expanded their programming and increased their fund raising efforts. Perhaps the greatest change in their financial situation was the incredible success of A Chorus Line. The Festival used the profits from that play to finance many other less popular programs. The records also reflect the ways in which A Chorus Line profits were disbursed and some of the marketing efforts made to sell show-related memorabilia. In addition to the records of the Finance Office, financial information can be found in several other series, especially the records of the General Manager and the Development Office. General Manager's files may include production budgets and the Development Office series includes budgets and financial data collected for grant applications.
The records of the Education Department for 1980 to 1989 document the Pilot Project, Shakespeare on Broadway, as well as educational programs for teachers, correspondence of the Education Project Coordinators: Mary T. Kelly and Michelle Macau, and a group of general files for the Education Department. The records include correspondence, memoranda, scheduling and attendance records, budget and fundraising files, clippings, press releases, curriculum guides, stage and house manager's reports, transcripts of discussions with teachers, letters from teachers and students regarding performances, student and teacher questionnaires, and miscellaneous departmental files. The files reflect the Festival's relations with both City Hall and the Board of Education in organizing its programs for school children. Correspondence from teachers and students, transcripts of teacher discussions, questionnaire responses, and reports of actors giving school workshops provide information on New York City and some of its students, and English programs in this period.
The records of New Jazz at the Public span the years 1978 to 1986 and include correspondence, program files, press releases, flyers, fundraising files, clippings, box office reports, financial information and contracts. The records reflect the efforts of both Andrew Plesser and Nancy Weiss to bring the best of the contemporary or "new music" to the Public, in a time when jazz performance space was limited in New York City. Their correspondence with funders and musicians and their memos to Joseph Papp reflect some of the decisions involved in selecting artists, raising funds and keeping a sense of purpose in the programming.
The Photograph series contains black and white gelatin prints, contact sheets, color prints, 35mm slides, master and copy negatives, glass slides, color transparencies, and Polaroid snapshots in a variety of sizes. 8x10 glossy black and white prints are the predominant format in this series. The photographs represent production stills, publicity photographs, cast head shots, rehearsal shots, candid shots of actors during make-up, prop and set design studies, and productions. There are many photographs of Joseph Papp and of other administrative and production NYSF staff, as well as interior and exterior views of the NYSF's various venues. The photographs also depict special events such as opening nights, benefit performances, and other publicity functions. The majority of the photographs are by Martha Swope (production stills), Friedman/Abeles (publicity stills of scenes performed in full dress), and George Joseph, the NYSF's official photographer (production stills, taken at the Delacorte Theatre). Other photographers include Frederic Ohringer, Ken Regan, Gerry Goodstein, Joan Marcus, Carol Rosegg, Eugene Spatz, Herbert Migdoll, and Alix Jeffry.
Sub-series 1 and 2 document, primarily, Papp's theatrical activity before the founding of the Shakespeare Festival. Sub-series 3 contains Papp's extensive hand-written notes on Hamlet (which he directed in 1968 and 1982) as well as several heavily annotated Shakespeare volumes from his personal bookshelf. Much of the material in Sub-series 4 through 9 was assembled by Serge Mogilat, director of the NYSF Archives Office, who was asked by Papp in 1977 to document his thinking and decision-making process. The Archives Office kept "clean copies" of Papp's writings for his personal reference. Sub-series 10 includes correspondence sent to Joseph Papp upon the death of his son Tony and good wishes following Papp's own diagnosis of cancer. There are get-well cards from many notable figures in theatre and film. The bulk of the condolences are notes to Gail Merrifield Papp following her husband's death in October, 1991. This grouping of personal papers represents but a small portion of the information about Joseph Papp that can be found in the Collection. It should be examined alongside Series I for insight into Papp's life and working process. Series I contains 304 boxes originating from Papp's office, and should be consulted for such items as memoranda, meeting minutes, correspondence, and Papp's writing in general.
Oversized materials include light plots, set designs and elevations, ground plans, blueprints and various construction designs for Festival productions, as well as theater renovations and bus and truck tours. Posters are included as well.