Immigrants and the Stage in Victorian New York

I will be giving a talk for the Victorian Society New York at the Bard Graduate Center on the evening of Tuesday, November 6. Full details can be found here, but the essential ones are that there is a reception at 6pm, the talk begins at 6:45pm, and it is free and open to the public (please RSVP). The presentation will look at how the themes of Houghton Library’s Treading the Borders exhibition were reflected on the stages of New York City during an era in which it variously served as a waystation and a new home for millions of immigrants.

In Pursuit of Petipa: A Bicentennial Symposium

In Pursuit of Petipa posterAfter more than a century, the ballets of Marius Petipa remain a staple of dance companies around the world. Join Alastair Macaulay (The New York Times) and an international panel of dance experts for a symposium shedding new light on Petipa’s formative years in France and Spain; and the preservation of his choreography through a cache of pioneering films rediscovered in Russia in 1995. Alexei Ratmansky (American Ballet Theatre) will offer concluding remarks on his recent reconstructions of Harlequinade for ABT and La Bayadère for the Staatsballett Berlin, using a unique archive of dance notations in the Harvard Theatre Collection.

Friday, November 9, 1:30 – 5:30 PM | Houghton Library

Seating is limited; RSVP


Alastair Macaulay
Chief Dance Critic, The New York Times

Alexei Ratmansky
Artist in Residence, American Ballet Theatre

Viktor Bocharov
Filmmaker and Historian, St. Petersburg

Laura Hormigón
Magazine ADE-Teatro, Madrid; former prima ballerina, National Ballet of Cuba

Sergey Konaev
Principal Researcher, The State Institute for Art Studies, Moscow

A reception and viewing of the exhibition, Step Back: Seeing Ballet’s Future in the Past, will follow.

Co-sponsored by the Harvard Theatre Collection and the Princeton Department of Music


Irina Klyagin
Processing Archivist, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Simon Morrison
Professor of Music and Slavic Languages and Literatures, Princeton University

Dale Stinchcomb
Assistant Curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University

American Experience | The Circus

The Circus is coming to PBS this evening in the form of a four-hour mini-series from American Experience that explores the colorful history of America’s grandest entertainment. It is airing over two nights (October 8 & 9) so please check local listings for the time in your neck of the woods. The film features a host of images drawn from the excellent assortment of antiquarian circus material in the Harvard Theatre Collection. There’s also commentary from our curator and erstwhile circus historian Matthew Wittmann.

MS Thr 495


From Manga to Musical

The Harvard Theatre Collection is pleased to welcome Min Kahng to Houghton Library for an evening talk on Wednesday, October 10, about his award-winning musical The Four Immigrants. The musical is based on an autobiographical comic or manga created by the Japanese-American artist Henry ‘Yoshitaka’ Kiyama (1885-1951). The comic was first published in 1931 and follows the story of four Japanese immigrants in early twentieth century San Francisco. Mostly overlooked in its own time, Kiyama’s work was given new life by Frederik L. Schodt, a Bay Area scholar who translated and republished it in 1999 as The Four Immigrants Manga . Schodt’s book in turn inspired Kahng to adapt Kiyama’s manga for the stage. Set to a vaudeville and ragtime-inspired score, the musical explores the everyday struggles that Japanese immigrants faced in  adapting to American life.

The event is free and open to the public, and is being staged in connection with our fall exhibition Treading the Borders: Immigration and the American Stage.

From Manga to Musical: The Journey of The Four Immigrants

Min Kahng

Houghton Library | Wednesday, October 10 @ 6pm

Othello’s Story

On Wednesday, September 26, Houghton Library will host an event to celebrate the launch of a new HarvardX course, Othello’s Story. Designed by Cogan University Professor of the Humanities Stephen Greenblatt, the course looks at the ways in which Shakespeare’s characters tell stories within the play––about themselves, to themselves, and to each other–and considers, too, how actors, directors, composers, and other artists tell stories through Othello in performance.

Please join us for an introduction to the course by Professor Greenblatt and Bailey Sincox, along with performances from the Hyperion Shakespeare Company.

When: September 26 @ 5.30pm

Where: Edison and Newman Room, Houghton Library

Immigration and the American Stage

Much of the richness and vitality of the performing arts in the United States derives from creative talent originating elsewhere. This exhibition looks at how successive waves of immigration transformed the American stage, highlighting the virtuosity and resilience of a diverse group of actors, artists, and entertainers from the colonial era to the present day.

Image: Maria Bonfanti in The Black Crook, ca. 1866

For more events and programming see “What’s On” at the Houghton website:

How to Act in 3 Easy Steps!

How to Act poster

Join us next Tuesday, April 3rd at 5:30pm for How to Act: Convey Emotion in 3 Easy Steps!, a conversation on historical acting styles and instructional manuals with Sharon Marcus, Jesse Hawley, Normandy Raven Sherwood, and James P. Stanley.

The actors featured on the above poster appeared in Johan Jacob Engels’s classic 1785 treatise on acting and in an updated manual created last year by the event’s speakers.

A New Practical Guide to Rhetorical Gesture and Action is part book project, part gallery show that uses the form of Henry Siddon’s 1807 catalogue of theatrical gestures for the London stage to document the stars and stalwarts of New York’s contemporary experimental theater scene.

Radiohole portraying "Indulgence." Illustration by Jesse Hawley
Radiohole portraying “Indulgence.” Illustration by Jesse Hawley

Illustrations by Jesse Hawley of actors reinterpreting gestures from the original are accompanied by text by Normandy Sherwood philosophizing on the gesture and its possible meanings, in a poetic subversion of the original’s pedagogical style. The volume consists of 36 illustrations with accompanying texts, a scholarly introduction by James P. Stanley contextualizing this documentary project in the history of acting and actors’ guides, as well as essays, interviews and commentary by fellow artists and scholars.

Houghton Library Fellowships, 2018-219

La Bureau Tipographique, 1733

The collections of Houghton Library touch upon almost every aspect of the human record, particularly the history and culture of Europe and North America, and include special concentrations in the history of printing and of theater. Materials held here range from medieval manuscripts and early printed books to the working papers of living writers. Fellows will also have access to collections in Widener Library as well as to other libraries at the University. Preference is given to scholars whose research is closely based on materials in Houghton collections, especially when those materials are unique; and we particularly welcome proposals for research projects drawing on our holdings related to Africa, the Americas, Asia, and Oceania, and to histories of marginalized people; fellowships are normally not granted to scholars who live within commuting distance of the library. Each fellow is expected to be in residence at Houghton for at least four weeks during the period from July 2018 through June 2019 (these do not have to be consecutive weeks), and each fellow will be expected to produce a written summary of his/her experience working with the collections. The stipend for each fellowship is $3,600.

Note that in addition to the regular Theatre Collection fellowships, Houghton Library has introduced a new fellowship dedicated to Research in Early Modern Black Lives.

***Our usual Visiting Fellowships page is having technical difficulties right now, but you can also find the information here:

Remember, applications are due January 12th!

The Black Crook!

Reviving and Reimagining The Black Crook
A Lecture and Performance by Joshua William Gelb
Wednesday, November 1st at 5:30 PM
Houghton Library

Considered by many to be the first American musical, The Black Crook was born in 1866 out of a haphazard union between a hackneyed melodrama by Charles M. Barras and a newly arrived ballet troupe from Paris. The production was billed as the most costly spectacle of its day, taking postbellum America by storm and codifying the outlandish conventions of musical spectacle that defined the genre well into the twentieth century. Join Joshua William Gelb, director and adaptor of a recent revival of The Black Crook for a lively exploration of the mythology, scandal, and tragedy of this legendary production.

Joshua William Gelb is a director, performer, and librettist whose work runs the gamut from devised physical theater to stylized adaptations of classics and original musicals. In 2016, he spearheaded a new production of The Black Crook at the Abrons Arts Center (NYC) to mark the 150th anniversary of its premiere. His work has also been featured at Ars Nova, The Tank’s Flint & Tinder series, the Target Margin Lab, the New Ohio’s Ice Factory, Incubator Arts, and the Edinburgh Fringe. Gelb is an associate artist with Sinking Ship Theater and a member of the 2012 Lincoln Center Director’s Lab.

Presented by the Harvard Theatre Collection and Theater Dance & Media.

The Owl Answers

There will be just three more performances of the Theater, Dance & Media fall production of Adrienne Kennedy’s one-act play The Owl Answers. There will be post-show talkbacks with Joan Harris and Professor Glenda Carpio (Friday) and Eisa Davis and Professor Monica White Ndounou (Saturday). We saw the play last week and it’s fantastic! 

And don’t miss the wonderful display in the lobby put together by dramaturg Rebecca Curran!

p.s. Also see this consideration of the play Aislinn Brophy ’17, who served as the assistant director.