Scope and arrangement
The Robert C. Schnitzer and Marcella Cisney papers document the careers of this couple, who individually, and at times working collaboratively, spent their entire work lives in the theater. The collection contains correspondence, notes, programs, scripts, photographs, memos, ephemera, and clippings documenting Schnitzer and Cisney's work at various theaters, universities and organizations. The collection also contains information on Marcella Cisney's family, and a very few items related to Schnitzer's family history. The organization of the files reflects the fact that Schnitzer and Cisney worked together on many projects, and that the papers were received as one collection. The majority of the files are not separated between Cisney and Schnitzer, but some files will pertain exclusively to one or the other: the ANTA files reflect Schnitzer's work, while the CBS files document Cisney's work.
One particularly well-documented segment of Schnitzer's career is his work with ANTA during the 1950s. During this time Schnitzer managed an American production of Hamlet at Elsinore, Denmark. He was also responsible for managing the US participation in the Berlin festivals of 1951 and 1952, which included Oklahoma!, Porgy and Bess, Medea, and the Hall Johnson Choir. Also under the auspices of ANTA, Schnitzer took the Gertrude Stein-Virgil Thomson opera, Four Saints in Three Acts to the Congress of Cultural Freedom's Paris Festival in 1952. Cisney's early career is documented by files on her work on Broadway in Lady Precious Stream, and by files on some of the theaters and organizations where she directed. These include the Little Theatre of Jacksonville, the Pasadena Playhouse, CBS, and the New York City Opera, where she staged L'Histoire du Soldat.
The Theatre Guild American Repertory Company files document the tour through correspondence, programs, State Department dispatches, clippings, notes and photographs. The University of Michigan files, including correspondence and production files, document the couple's efforts to bring professional theater to the University community. Schnitzer and Cisney's Professional Theatre Program worked with many theater companies, notably with the Association of Producing Artists under the leadership of Ellis Rabb.
Correspondence, which is found in most of the series, reflects the scope of Schnitzer and Cisney's work in the theater and includes letters from Eric Bentley, Alice Childress, Will Geer, June Havoc, Helen Hayes, John Houseman, Lawrence Langner, Armina Marshall, Cathleen Nesbitt, Ellis Rabb, Jerome Robbins, and Thornton Wilder.
The photographs are in a separate series, but are organized in files that reflect the manuscript portion of the collection. The photos include production photos of Porgy and Bess presented by ANTA at the Berlin festival in 1952 and various production photos and miscellaneous press photos from the Theatre Guild American Repertory Company tour. A large number of family photographs document the Abels family history.
The Robert C. Schnitzer and Marcella Cisney papers are arranged in nine series:
- 1939-19973.5 boxes
Correspondence includes professional and personal letters, to and from Robert Schnitzer and Marcella Cisney. The files are arranged chronologically and have been organized in two sub-series: General Correspondence and Individuals.
- 1923-198813 boxes
Organizations represent both professional and social affiliations, including theaters, professional organizations, schools, universities, and producer's offices. The files are arranged alphabetically and include correspondence, memos, programs, clippings, reports, printed matter, financial papers, and notes. Among the organizations represented are: American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA), American Educational Theatre Association, Columbia University, the Council of Regional Theatres, Cheryl Crawford productions, Henry Miller's Theatre, the New School for Social Research Dramatic Workshop, the New York City Opera, the Players, and the University Resident Theatre Association. The earliest item in the series is the copy of a program for a production of The Tempest at the Horace Mann School where Schnitzer was a student. He played the role of Prospero.
The ANTA files (approximately 5 boxes) are mostly devoted to ANTA's role as the administrators of the President's Special Program for International Exchange. The program, which sent American artists overseas during the Cold War years, was intended to rival the Soviet Union's cultural programs. The files contain correspondence, memos, programs, clippings, reports, and Foreign Service dispatches. Jerome Robbins' Ballets: USA, Berlin Festival (1951 and 1952), Salut à la France, the Experimental Theatre, ANTA Albums, and the National Theatre Assembly are some of the ANTA programs with individual files.
Various aspects of Cisney's career are represented in files for the Cain Park Theatre, the Laguna Playhouse, the Little Theatre of Jacksonville, the Pasadena Playhouse, the Spa Summer Theater, CBS, and the Westport - Weston Arts Council. Schnitzer worked for the Kalamazoo Civic Players, the Rollins Theatre School, and the Red Rocks Theatre, all of which are represented in the files. Schnitzer was an officer of many organizations including the American Educational Theatre Association, the University Resident Theatre Association, and the National Theatre Conference. He also participated in various conferences sponsored by the International Institute of Education and other organizations. With Cisney he attended Colloquium '67 in Montreal and the Council of Regional Theatres Conference in England in 1974.
The files of the American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) contain part of a manuscript on the WPA Arts Programs, focusing on the Federal Theatre Project. Correspondence, notes and memos from Schnitzer and Hallie Flanagan Davis contain their criticism of the work done by William F. McDonald, who was writing the book under contract to the ACLS. The transcript of an oral history interview of Schnitzer conducted by George Mason University contains additional information on the Federal Theatre Project.
- 1960-19613.5 boxes
The Theatre Guild American Repertory Company files include correspondence, scripts, programs, schedules, Foreign Service dispatches, notes, invitations, and clippings. The company was organized for the President's Special International Program under the auspices of the United States Department of State and its agent, the International Cultural Exchange Service of ANTA. The program consisted of three works The Glass Menagerie, The Skin of Our Teeth, and The Miracle Worker, performed in repertory. The principle members of the troupe for the European and Middle Eastern leg of the tour were Helen Hayes, June Havoc, Leif Erickson, and Helen Menken. Robert Schnitzer served as the general manager and Marcella Cisney directed The Skin of Our Teeth. The South American portion of the tour, which left New York in August of 1961, is not very well represented in the collection.
The reaction of the local populations to the productions is well documented in the clippings from the local papers (many of which were translated and excerpted by the local US embassies) and the State Department memos and dispatches. Marcella Cisney's notes give her impressions of the surroundings, and document some of the problems with the local arrangements and with various aspects of the productions.
Many of the papers in this series were damaged by water and mold and some are fragile or may be difficult to read.
- 1961-197712.5 boxes
The University of Michigan files contain correspondence, production files, scripts, contracts, programs, brochures, press releases, teaching materials, office files and clippings documenting the Schnitzer's twelve years (1961-1973) at the University. The Professional Theatre Program (PTP) got underway in the 1962-1963 season, with Robert Schnitzer as the executive director and Marcella Cisney as the artistic director. Photographs of PTP productions and other University events are located in the photograph series.
- 1946-19841 box
Project files include scripts, notes and budgets for miscellaneous projects considered by Cisney and Schnitzer. Scripts by Stuart Vaughan and Gerald Deutsch are among the files included in this series.
- 1913-19812 boxes
Personal papers include correspondence, biographical information, clippings, ephemera, writings and notes. Correspondence is made up mostly of personal letters from Schnitzer to Cisney. Ephemera include inscribed books, passports and membership cards. Also included is a program (ca.1923) from the National Theatre in New York for a production of Cyrano de Bergerac starring Walter Hampden. Additional subjects include Michael Cisney, homes, the marriage of Robert Schnitzer and Marcella Cisney, speaking engagements and events. Information on Marcella Cisney's early career includes her performance in Lady Precious Stream and a program for Girls in Uniform.
- 1904-19861.5 boxes
Family papers are organized by the name of the family member. They include correspondence, ephemera, written reminiscences, and documents. The Abels family papers include information on Marcella Cisney's parents, Moses and Anne Abels, and her siblings Jesse Abels and Judith Abels. The Schnitzer family papers contain limited information on Schnitzer's mother, Clara Billiani Schnitzer.
- ca. 1890-19894 boxes
Photographs are organized to reflect the order of the manuscript part of the collection. They document many aspects of Schnitzer's and Cisney's careers. Images include production photos, family photographs, and snapshots of social occasions.
- 1920-19712 boxes
Oversized materials include personal and production photographs, programs, set designs, elevations, and a window card for Four Saints in Three Acts at the Broadway Theatre.