Scope and arrangement
The Paul Cranefield Papers document medical doctor and theater enthusiast Paul Cranefield’s interest and contribution to New York City’s theatrical world, and in particular the Off-Off Broadway movement. A medical doctor and academic faculty member by profession, during the 1960s and 1970s Paul Cranefield was actively involved in several theater initiatives such as the La Mama Experimental Theatre Club and the Circle Repertory Theatre. Cranefield was also an avid collector; consequently, although the bulk years of this collection span from 1951-2002, there are several items collected by Cranefield that date from as early as 1824.
The collection consists of administrative files created by La Mama and Circle Repertory Theatre, as well as other theatrical organizations in which Cranefield was involved. They include correspondence, board of directors’ meeting minutes, notes and agendas, legal and financial records, grant applications, leaflets, brochures and programs, production inventories, and Cranefield’s writings on theater and collecting. A large part of this collection consists of scripts, several of them annotated or inscribed by the authors. These inscriptions and attached correspondence indicate his support on several of the works represented here. In particular, Paul Foster’s The Madonna in the Orchard and Lanford Wilson’s The Rimers of Eldritch include substantial research materials or comments by Cranefield. The collection also contains photographs, clippings, and a considerable number of programs and posters from productions created by La Mama and Circle Repertory Theatre, or from their affiliated members.
Notable among the contents of the Paul Cranefield Papers are several items related to nineteenth-century theater that Cranefield collected during his life. They are mainly posters and programs of productions from the 1800s, as well as an original sketch of the mid-nineteenth-century actress Anna Cora Mowatt, which Cranefield obtained together with the first edition of Mowatt’s Autobiography of an Actress, or Eight Years on the Stage, 1854.
A helpful and interesting feature of this collection is that Paul Cranefield prepared carefully the materials before their donation. His passion for the subject and his intellectual thoroughness are evident in several items, which include comments and notes added by him, many of them written in 1994. These comments place materials in context, and often make connections or contain descriptions of related events. Cranefield often provides the sender’s full name in letters that are signed only by first name, while posters, programs and photographs are enriched by a wide range of comments, dates and other relevant information.
This collection does not contain materials related to Paul Cranefield’s career as a doctor, with a few exceptions where the subjects of theater and medicine overlap.
The Paul Cranefield papers are arranged in four series:
- 1843 - 2002,5 boxes
This series contains administrative files created by La Mama and Circle Repertory Theatre, in which Cranefield was a board member. They include correspondence, meeting minutes, notes and agendas, legal and financial records, grant applications, leaflets and brochures, production inventories, and Cranefield’s writings on subjects related to theater and collecting. The correspondence files contain several letters from friends and colleagues, among them Lanford Wilson, Paul Foster, and Michael Powell. Many of these letters include lively discussions about their work and descriptions of their life at the time. Letters from La Mama’s European tour in 1967, for example, contain several different perspectives over the same events during the four-month period of the tour.
- 1964 - 1997,8 boxes
This series contains scripts of plays produced at La Mama or Circle Repertory Theatre, several of them original works, or drafts. Many scripts contain annotations and authors’ inscriptions to Paul Cranefield for his support and encouragement. His contribution is even more substantial in the case of certain works, such as Paul Foster’s The Madonna in the Orchard and Lanford Wilson’s The Rimers of Eldritch, which include research notes, photographs, and correspondence with Cranefield’s suggestions and observations.
- 1951 - 2001,5 boxes
This series contains clippings and a considerable number of programs and fliers from productions staged at La Mama and Circle Repertory Theatre, or works by their members performed in other venues.
- 1824 - 1996,7 boxes
This series contains oversized correspondence, collected materials, photographs and posters from productions created by La Mama and Circle Repertory Theatre, or materials collected by Cranefield of productions from the 1800s. Some materials are mounted.