Library Exhibition "Playwrights, Production and Performance"


  Photograph of the Martin Beck Theatre, New York City, featuring the   play The Rose Tattoo by Tennessee Williams. Photograph   reproduced from the cover of the “Playbill” from the 1951 New York   production.

The University of Delaware Library announces “Playwrights, Production and Performance: American Theater in the 20th Century,” an exhibition of books, letters, photographs, annotated scripts, set designs, programs, posters and other theater ephemera, on view in the Special Collections Exhibition Gallery on the second floor of Morris Library from Tuesday, January 25, 2011 through Wednesday, June 8, 2011.

For centuries people have been telling stories through performance.  In the course of the twentieth century theater has faced increasing competition from film, radio, television and the internet; its longevity is a testament to the genre’s ability to connect with audiences generation after generation. As an art form, drama is unique in that it takes place in real time, thrives on collaboration, and requires an audience.

Prior to the twentieth century, American theater consisted primarily of performances by touring groups of British and Continental plays, notably Shakespeare and the popular traditions of melodrama, vaudeville and burlesque.

After World War I, theater began to transform from the variety show styling’s of the Vaudeville tradition to the use of the stage as a vehicle for serious artistic expression and social and political commentary with the emergence of major American playwrights, new forms and movements such as: Realism, Expressionism, Theatre of the Absurd, the Little Theatre Movement, Black Arts Movement, the Women’s Theatre Movement, and the Federal Theatre Project. 

The exhibition features the works of a diverse range of notable playwrights such as: Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Lorraine Hansberry, David Mamet, Neil Simon, August Wilson, Beth Henley, Robert Duncan, Gertrude Stein, Michael McClure, Eric Borgosian and Barrie Stavis, all of which is represented in the Special Collections of the University of Delaware Library.
 
The exhibition further traces the development of American theater and explores the variety and experimentation of playwrights as each has struggled to define the uniquely “American” voice. Materials will be showcased that demonstrate the progressive nature of American playwrights and the variety of approaches, trends and major movements to which each has contributed such as Realism, propelled to the fore by Eugene O’Neill; the Black Arts Movement, founded by Amiri Baraka; the Women’s Theater movement, carved out by Wendy Wasserstein and the Theatre of the Absurd, pioneered by Edward Albee.

“The materials also offer a glimpse into the process of production and performance which are the heart of what makes theater extraordinary,” stated Susan Bryteson, vice provost and May Morris Director of Libraries.

On display will be examples of the work that takes place behind the scenes, such as: stage manager, Ralph Delauney’s production and rehearsal materials related to Tennessee Williams’ The Rose Tattoo, a Tony Award winning play; set designs for plays of Barrie Stavis and original artwork, posters and playbills from various productions. 

“Theater plays an integral role in culture and society throughout the United States, and UD’s resident professional theatre, the REP, has a critical role in the University of Delaware’s ‘Path to Prominence’. Viewing the unique items in this exceptionally impressive and wide-ranging exhibition reflects the importance of theatre on campus and nationally and it is very moving to see. The exhibition also makes me very proud of the theater holdings in Special Collections in the University of Delaware Library,” commented Sanford L. Robbins, chairperson of the Department of Theatre at the University of Delaware and artistic director of the Resident Ensemble Players at the University of Delaware.

The curators of the exhibition are Timothy Murray, head of Special Collections Department, and Laurie Rizzo, assistant librarian in the Special Collections Department in the University of Delaware Library.

The exhibition can be viewed during the regular hours of Special Collections, Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday evenings until 8 p.m. An online exhibition will be available on [www.udel.edu/library/ud/spec/exhibits.html]. The materials on display in "Playwrights, Production and Performance” are entirely from Special Collections of the University of Delaware Library.

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