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.

President’s Day Roundup

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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:

Underground Boston Theatergoing

On PBS tonight, the American Experience series will be featuring a new documentary that chronicles how Boston became the first city in the United States to construct a subway system. The first chapter of The Race Underground can be viewed here:

It is always striking to see how much opposition infrastructure projects like this engender, particularly when balanced against how important they are to our modern lives. We must confess to being mass-transit boosters, but has anybody really wished there were less convenient transportation options? In any case, the documentary describes how traffic congestion led to the construction of the Tremont Street Subway, which eventually became the Green Line. Construction began in the spring of 1895 and the first sections opened on September 1, 1897.

Boston Globe (November 27, 1898)

For the theatergoers of Boston, the new subway was particularly noticeable insomuch that it alleviated nightly traffic problems by removing streetcars from Termont and Boylston Streets and curtailing the crush of carriages that crowded downtown when the shows let out. Unfortunately, the subway proved so popular that the theater crowds were soon facing what the Boston Globe described as an “underground crush” in the subway. This entertaining article noted that the station just after the theaters let out was “a great time and place to observe people actuated by their more primitive impulses and instincts; for there, possessed solely by the desire of getting home as quickly as possible…men and women in rich and immaculate attire struggle and push with the meanest raiment, and almost every face is an index to an anxious, disappointed or angry state of mind.” And so, as it goes, solving one problem created several new ones.

Harvard Theatre Collection Fellowships, 2017-18

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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.