Scope and arrangement
The papers of Lucille Lortel relate the details of Miss Lortel's life and career from her teen years to her death in 1999. The papers include correspondence, production files, scripts, programs, production photographs, personal and family photographs, organization files, clippings, ephemera and scrapbooks. Miss Lortel's life spanned the century and her papers encompass many aspects of her personal history, as well as the history of Off-Broadway and of her regional theater in Connecticut. Miss Lortel is credited with creating the Off-Broadway movement and providing a forum for avant-garde and experimental works at her Theatre de Lys. Both the ANTA Matinee Series at the Theatre de Lys and her White Barn Theatre brought works by Genet, O'Casey and Fugard to a wider audience. Many of these productions are represented in the collection by correspondence, programs, photographs and clippings. Over the years Miss Lortel also worked closely with several non-profit theaters as a donor and mentor. Her affiliations with the Circle in the Square, Circle Repertory Company, Goodspeed Opera House, Yale Repertory Theatre, and other theater companies are documented in the organization files.
The collection also contains information about Miss Lortel's husband, Louis Schweitzer, her mother, Anna Mayo Wadler, her brothers, Seymour Wadler and Waldo Mayo, and her sister Ruth Wadler Cugat. Louis Schweitzer's papers include some correspondence (mostly with Miss Lortel), clippings and a few documents relating to his work with the Vera Institute of Justice. Waldo Mayo's files contain programs, clippings and writings which detail his early career as a violinist in the United States and Europe. Ruth Wadler Cugat and her husband, Francis Coradal-Cugat were artists, and some examples of their work can be found in the collection.
The Lucille Lortel papers are arranged in eleven series:
- 1921-19996.5 linear feet (16 boxes 9 folders)
This series contains letters from Miss Lortel's business associates and friends, about both personal and business matters.
- 1945-19998.4 linear feet. (20 boxes 8 folders)
This series is divided into 5 sub-series: Affiliated, ANTA Matinee Series, Off-Broadway, Broadway, and Library of Congress. While the affiliated productions are arranged alphabetically, the others are arranged chronologically.
Included are Affiliated productions with which she was involved as the owner of the Theatre de Lys, the ANTA Matinee Series, which were innovative works performed at the Theatre de Lys on days when the Theatre was dark, and over 20 Off-Broadway productions, from Miss Lortel's first Off-Broadway venture, Christopher Fry's A Sleep of Prisoners at St. James' Episcopal Church in 1951, through Mondays at the Lortel in 1997. Her 7 Broadway productions are also documented from Sean O'Casey's I Knock at the Door's premiere at the Belasco Theatre in 1957, through Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods at the Booth Theatre in 1987. Finally, materials for the 19 productions Lucille Lortel presented annually at the Library of Congress's Coolidge Auditorium (Washington, D.C.) from 1960 to 1988, beginning with Sean O'Casey's Time to Go and Paul Vincent Carroll's The Coggerers, through A Walk in the Woods by Lee Blessing are contained in this series. The subject matter of A Walk in the Woods made it especially appropriate for presentation in Washington, D.C.
- 1947-19996.8 linear feet. (16 boxes 23 folders)
This series is devoted to the White Barn Theatre, situated on Miss Lortel's estate in Westport, Connecticut. Included in this series are three sub-series: General, Production and the White Barn Theatre Museum. These papers provide a valuable window into the beginning of a theatrical experiment showcasing new plays and undiscovered talent. Included are programs, correspondence, clippings, contracts, production materials, scripts, financial information, publicity materials and architectural plans.
- 1935-19996.6 linear feet. (16 boxes)
The organization files include correspondence, minutes, printed matter, guest lists, invitations, programs, awards and certificates, and clippings. The files span the years 1935 to 1999 and represent many organizations with which Miss Lortel had a long relationship, either as a donor and/or as a board member or artistic advisor. Also included are organizations which honored Miss Lortel in some way. Organizations include numerous theater-related groups and academic institutions. The earliest material is found in the ANTA (American National Theatre and Academy) files (1935-1966). Papers include correspondence and printed matter, and copies of ANTA's newsletter (Chapter One). Other organizations which are well-represented include Actors' Equity, Actors' Fund of America, American Theatre Wing, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Brown University, Circle in the Square, Circle Repertory Company, CUNY Graduate Center, Columbia University, Drama League, Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, Fairfield University, Goodspeed Opera House, League of Professional Theatre Women, Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, Museum of the City of New York, New Dramatists, The New York Public Library, New York University School of the Arts, O'Casey Theater Company, The Players, New York Shakespeare Festival, Roundabout Theatre, St. Clare's Hospital, Signature Theatre Company, University of Bridgeport, Westport Public Library, and Yale School of Drama.
Miss Lortel's relationship with the academic community is reflected in the organizational files. The Lucille Lortel Professorial Chair in Theatre was established at the City University of New York (CUNY) Graduate Center in 1989 and the university awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in 1993. She also received Honorary Doctorates from the University of Bridgeport in 1985 and Fairfield University in 1987. In 1996 she created the Lucille Lortel Fellowship in Playwriting at Brown University. Her correspondents at Brown included Paula Vogel and Vartan Gregorian. Miss Lortel also had strong ties to the Yale School of Drama (1966-1998) where she established the Lucille Lortel Fund for New Drama at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 1985. The first new play to be presented with the gift was August Wilson's Fences. It was also at Yale that Miss Lortel first saw Lee Blessing's A Walk in the Woods, which she took to Broadway, London and Moscow during 1988-1989. Lloyd Richards, Dean of the Yale School of Drama, and Artistic Director of the Yale Repertory Theatre was a frequent correspondent. The files for New York University Tisch School of the Arts (1981-1998) document the establishment of the Lucille Lortel Graduate Readings in 1992. Miss Lortel's relationship with The New York Public Library (1980-1998) includes her funding of the Lucille Lortel Room for the viewing of tapes in the library's Theatre on Film and Tape, and the library's screening of her biographical film The Queen of Off-Broadway and mounting an exhibition of her career. The files for the Museum of the City of New York (1968-1997) document Lucille Lortel's work with the Theatre Collection there and her contributions to the Museum including the opening of the Lortel Gallery in 1981. Unrelated to her theatrical pursuits, Miss Lortel funded a scholarship in memory of her brother Waldo Mayo at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel. The files (1983-1989) contain letters from recipients telling Miss Lortel about themselves and their studies. At Columbia University she also funded the Meyer Berger Award, a journalism award initiated by her husband Louis Schweitzer. Some of the Connecticut organizations included the Westport Historical Society, the Westport Public Library and the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. From the 1960s through the 1990s Miss Lortel had an ongoing relationship with many theater companies and organizations in New York and Connecticut. The files include correspondence with many notable theatrical personalities, including Nedda Harrigan Logan and Tom Dillon (Actors' Fund), Isabelle Stevenson (American Theatre Wing), Julia Hansen (Drama League), Shivaun O'Casey (O'Casey Theater Company), Michael Price (Goodspeed), George White (Eugene O'Neill), Barry Grove and Lynne Meadow (Manhattan Theatre Club), and Tanya Berezin (Circle Rep). The Signature Theatre Company file includes letters from a March 1997 tribute to Miss Lortel and Horton Foote. Writers include Horton Foote, Julie Harris, Ellen Stewart and George C. Wolfe.
- 1952-1999.5 linear feet (1 box 8 folders)
This series is devoted to Miss Lortel's theater, located in Greenwich Village, New York City.
- 1986-19991.1 linear feet. (2 boxes 15 folders)
The files for the Lucille Lortel Awards include correspondence, invitations, programs, guest lists, press materials, clippings and some scripts documenting the annual awards. The awards, created by Miss Lortel in 1986 in response to a request from the League of Off-Broadway Theatres, honor outstanding achievement Off-Broadway. No awards were presented in 1990.
- 5.8 linear feet (14 boxes)
These papers give an insightful overview of Miss Lortel's private and social life from her childhood through her final years. The Appointment and Address books reflect Miss Lortel's personal and professional engagements, interests, and contacts; in some cases the books are in her own handwriting. The Personal A-Z sub-series includes material on her early career, homes, travel, personal projects, and ephemera such as passports and driver's licenses. Family Correspondence includes letters to and from her immediate family, as well as cousins and in-laws. Family Papers contains documents, clippings, ephemera, and other memorabilia from Miss Lortel's husband, Louis Schweitzer, her mother Anna Mayo Wadler, sister Ruth Wadler Cugat, and brother-in-law Francis Coradal-Cougat, her brothers Waldo Mayo and Seymour Wadler, nieces, nephews, in-laws, and cousins.
- 1921-1999.5 linear feet. (1 box 4 folders)
Clippings document Miss Lortel's career and some personal pursuits from her earliest performances through her death in 1999. The clippings in this series are "general" in their topics. Clippings related to specific productions, organizations, the White Barn Theatre, or the Lortel Awards are located in those series.
- ca. 1902 - 199810.7 linear feet (26 boxes)
The photographs are divided into 9 sub-series, documenting most aspects of Miss Lortel's personal and professional life.
- 1925-19962.71 linear feet (2 oversized flat boxes 1 additional box)
This series contains awards and citations to Lucille Lortel, artwork, photographs, window cards and posters for Affiliated, ANTA Matinee Series, Off-Broadway, and Broadway productions. Among the artwork is a watercolor painted by Sidney Kingsley. Also included is an autographed poster for the Circle Repertory Company production of Prelude to a Kiss, Helen Hayes Theatre (New York, N.Y.).
- 1918-198837 vols
The scrapbooks consist of 37 volumes of clippings, programs, invitation, fliers, season lists, and a few photographs documenting the ANTA Matinee Series, the White Barn Theatre and 1 volume documenting the career of Waldo Mayo. Some of the early White Barn and ANTA scrapbooks include sign-in pages for guests. Waldo Mayo's scrapbook includes portraits of the violinist, programs, clippings and publicity materials documenting his concerts in the United States and Europe.