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.

2017 ARTS FIRST Festival

The schedule for Harvard’s annual ARTS FIRST festival has been announced. As the icon indicates, the festival is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and this year’s recipient of the Harvard Arts Medal is none other than John Lithgow. As his papers are held by the Harvard Theatre Collection, we are planning a small exhibition to celebrate the occasion. Although obviously best known for his work on the stage and screen, Lithgow is also a talented artist who has produced a range of works over the course of his career (see this recent gift to Jimmy Fallon). It seems to be something of a tradition for him to create and distribute an artwork to the crew when various productions wrap, and several of these entertaining illustrations will be featured in the exhibition. John Lithgow: Actor as Artist will be on display at Houghton Library from April 25-July 29.

Silhouette as Art and Entertainment

In light of tonight’s lecture, we just wanted to take a moment and highlight one of the more interesting silhouettes in the Harvard Theatre Collection. I suppose some might argue that it is not a proper silhouette insomuch that it is drawn rather than cut. Still, it is lovely and rare contemporary image of the great actor David Garrick (1717-1779), one we suspect is based upon a painting by Benjamin van der Gucht in the Royal Collection Trust (an engraving after the painting can be seen here).

MS Thr 153.1

Miniature portraits in this vein became extremely popular in the late eighteenth century and Houghton Library holds hundreds of silhouettes of prominent artists and scholars in its collections. During the nineteenth century, travelling silhouette arts brought the art to the masses, working at fairs, festivals, and other places of leisure. As Mr. Burns will demonstrate this evening, it is a tradition that continues to this day and we hope you will join us for what promises to be an entertaining event.

President’s Day Roundup

TS 2026.30

In honor of Washington’s Birthday (Feb. 22) and the federal holiday we have come to celebrate as President’s Day, check out a few of our recent presidential pieces:

Happy 75th Anniversary!

As noted in a post by Peter Accardo on our main blog, Houghton Library first opened its doors on January 3, 1942 to allow Harvard library staff to preview their new building. At the dedication ceremony the following month, benefactor Arthur Amory Houghton, Jr. expressed the hope that the library would be “fuel for the fire of learning.” Houghton Library has certainly worked hard to fulfill this charge, and this year we are celebrating our 75th anniversary with a whole host of programs and events. Information about all that’s happening can be found at our new Houghton 75th website. Our main exhibition at the moment features materials selected by Harvard faculty, which include John Keats’ copy of Shakespeare, ephemera relating to Bert Williams, and the famed Cranach Press edition of Hamlet.

Harvard Theatre Collection Fellowships, 2017-18

MS Thr 1337

A quick reminder that the due date for Houghton Library’s 2017-18 Visiting Fellowships is January 13, 2017. All of the details about the application process can be found through the link above, but note that preference is given to scholars whose research is closely based on materials in Houghton Library, especially when those materials are unique. The best guide to locating materials in the Harvard Theatre Collection is here. This year we will be awarding the following fellowships:

  • Beatrice, Benjamin, and Richard Bader Fellowship in the Visual Arts of the Theatre
  • Howard D. Rothschild Fellowship in Dance
  • Robert Gould Shaw Fellowship for the Harvard Theatre Collection
  • John M. Ward Fellowship in Dance and Music for the Theatre

Applicants need not apply for specific fellowships, as the Selection Committee will determine which fellowship is best suited to your research when awarded. Please also be sure to consult the full list of Houghton Library fellowships, as it includes additional ones such as the Katharine F. Pantzer Jr. Fellowship in Descriptive Bibliography, which might be applied to Theatre Collection projects. A list of past fellowship recipients can be found here.

Prologue

TCS 53 (Garrick), Houghton Library.

At the reopening of the Drury Lane Theatre in September 1747, the famed English actor David Garrick read a poem by Samuel Johnson that intoned:

’Tis yours this night to bid the reign commence
Of rescu’d Nature, and reviving Sense;
To chase the charms of Sound, the pomp of Show,
For useful Mirth, and salutary Woe;
Bid scenic Virtue form the rising age,
And Truth diffuse her radiance from the stage.

In the spirit of Johnson, we hope this new digital stage offers a way of engaging, and dare we say pleasing, that part of the public that has an interest in the varied history of the performing arts in the United States and around the world. To that end, this blog aims to provide a glimpse into the Harvard Theatre Collection and the people–students, staff, researchers–who animate it.

A note on nomenclature. An entr’acte refers to a performance that takes place between the principal acts or plays in a theater. In this vein, our focus will be on posts that give an interesting glimpse into the collection over more involved and formal research. If you have an idea, question, or comment about the blog, contact us here.

For inquiries about collection materials and access, see our main page.

And if you are not already, you can follow our activities on Twitter and Instagram.