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Posts from the Billy Rose Theatre Division

Florence Vandamm: Dance Photographer?

The representation of the professional and artistic career of Florence Vandamm has a major gap, which we are doing our best to fill in. Her London scrapbook goes from 1908–1915. The Vandamm Theatrical Photographs collection documents her work in New York City, from 1924 on. We have filled in some of the gap with the Sybil Thorndike material (see earlier posts) and discoveries of images printed in magazines, such as British and New York Vogue, Vanity Fair and The Spur.Read More ›

I Read the Journal-American Today, Oh Dear: Beatles Files Part 1

Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles will be on view at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (LPA) from February 6 through May 10, 2014. A project of The GRAMMY Museum® at L.A. LIVE and Fab Four Exhibits, it commemorates The Beatles’ first tour of North America. The title and inspiration are taken from their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, February 9, 1964. It covers the brief time in which the Beatles toured for live concerts.Read More ›

The Original Circle in the Square Photographers: An Interview with Justin and Barbara Kerr

Photographs from the Circle in the Square Papers provide a one-of-a-kind record of nearly all of the hundreds of productions mounted on the Circle’s round stage during its five-decade history. Founded in 1951, the Circle in the Square became one of the key theaters in the Off-Broadway movement.Read More ›

Vandamm's Pygmalion

By the time that you read this post, the exhibition Pioneering Poet of Light: Florence Vandamm & the Vandamm Studio will have been de-installed. The photograph and key sheets will be returned to the Performing Arts Library divisions. But the blogging will continue since there are thousands of photographs representing thousands of shows, dances and people.Read More ›

Power: The American Way

George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, co-authors of some of Broadway’s most enduringly funny comedies, also collaborated on a topical pageant, The American Way, which opened at Broadway’s Center Theater, January 1939.Read More ›

Vandamm and Machinal

Machinal is back on Broadway. Sophie Treadwell’s best known play is enjoying a successful revival at the Roundabout Theater. Although a journalist, Treadwell used elements of experimental playwriting to show the central character stuck on the machinery that limited the lives of 1920s women. Her choices doom her. Go to see it if you can.Read More ›

The Holy Grail of the Percussion World, Part 1

William F. Ludwig himself put it best when he said, “On February 9th, 1964, a new musical event burst from the TV screens across America. The Beatles had arrived, featuring Ringo Starr and his Ludwig Black Oyster drums. Literally overnight everyone wanted a drum set like Ringo’s. The drum boom was born!”Read More ›

Focus on Stage Lighting: Faust

This week’s post serves as a caption for the alternative image that the Library’s opening web page has been using when it highlights the Vandamm exhibition, Pioneering Poet of Light. Again, the web editors selected well, since the photograph of Faust illustrates the title so well.Read More ›

Violets and Vandamm

Part of the job of performance documentation was creation of images for the promotional articles, that ran in magazines such as Theatre. The featured play article featured 6 – 8 photographs of stage action laid out like a fashion magazine images cropped into rectangles and ovals connected by 1 sentence plot summaries. The article gives you a taste of the story line while promoting performers. The Vandamm Studio was especially good at preserving moments that convey emotional impact – viewers know that something important just happened.

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Those Mysterious Shadowy Dancers

This post answers a question about the image that the Library’s web page has been using when it highlights the Vandamm exhibition, Pioneering Poet of Light. I was thrilled when the web editors selected it, since it illustrates the title so well. So, here’s an extended caption, with musical accompaniment.

Three’s a Crowd was a revue, presented in the 1930-1931 season. Like The Band Wagon in last week's post, it was choreographed by the brilliantly innovative Albertina Rasch and paired a young Broadway/vaudeville veteran with a European ballet 

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"What Do You Say Up There?" Shooting the Set from Above

The most recent post looked at Vandamm photographs of dance rehearsals from footholds on the catwalks, ladders and rigging stations of Broadway theaters. This one focuses on their photographs of the stage crew setting up for those rehearsals.

Like all theater photographers, they depended on the crews to set scenes, move furniture and props, and adapt lighting. But, as you can see from the portraits and action shots, the Vandamms esteemed their IATSE colleagues and photographed them with the same respect as the performers. There are portraits of individuals or 

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"Hey Up There" Looking Down on Dancers

“Hey up there”

Broadway precision chorus lines were a staple of musical comedies and revues. A straight line of precision tappers, kickers or steppers could excite the audience in the orchestra, looking slightly up, or balcony, from which they were looking slightly down. But Broadway-trained Hollywood dance directors were giving audiences a multitude of angled points-of-view thanks to cameras and booms.

In the 1930s, the Vandamms went all out to give 

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The Line King's Vandamms

It has been a while since the last blog post. I have been busy with the installation and opening tours related to our final Fall exhibition, The Line Kings’ Library: Al Hirschfeld at The NYPL, which is on view in the Donald and Mary Oenslager Gallery here through January 4, 2014. It, the Vandamm exhibit and Michael Peto: Stage in 

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Treasures, Oddities and Ephemera: 3-D Objects from Billy Rose Theatre Division’s Theatre Cabinets

The Theatre Cabinets (or T-Cabinets as we call them) of the Billy Rose Theatre Division are packed full of objects large and small. The cabinets are a repository for all the three-dimensional items that have accompanied our larger collections or have been given to the division separately as a gift. I absolutely love the T-cabinets. Being hidden in the back of a locked cage and full of mysterious items is only part of the allure. The other part is the extreme variety of the items themselves.

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Beyond the Jersey Shore: 1920s Snapshots From a Chorus Girl's Scrapbook

Today's guest blog is by Suzanne Lipkin, who processed the Marion Lichtman Setlowe papers for the Billy Rose Theatre Division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.

Marion Lichtman, 1920'sFriday April 9, 1926 I left Atlantic City to go on the road. I was in Second Year High School. I was 16 years of age on March 25, 1926. I joined the Dancing Debs. at Levoy Theatre, Milville, 

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Or She to Hecuba... Vandamm's Greek Plays

Thorndike's 1919 production of The Trojan WomenDuring the War, Florence Vandamm had not lost her skill at showing character and movement. Her career was, in many ways, redefined by the portraits commissioned by Suffragist actress Sybil Thorndike in 1919. She photographed the cast of the 1919-1920 Holborn Empire (Theater) season of classical Greek and modern plays presented by Sybil Thorndike and Lewis Casson.

The images were used for press reproduction and in the season program. Thorndike chose to present the Gilbert Murray translations of The Trojan Women and 

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A Vandamm Postcard from London

Before leaving London in 1923, Florence Vandamm photographed Sybil Thorndike in at least five additional roles. Thorndike was known for her ability to play comedy and tragedy, so there was a wide range. She appeared in the suffrage play Jane Clegg for Edith Craig's Pioneer Players, 1922, reminding her audience that conditions remained despite the political victory. Thorndike also played in and presented modern comedies, such as Advertising April in 1923.

Theater promotional postcards were re-emerging after World War I restrictions on dark room materials.  

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Vandamm: A Journey's End

This post could also be called "In praise of Internet research." In terms of research, it was a triumph; in all other senses, a tragedy. Thanks to NYPL's electronic resources and Internet connection, I went from not knowing of the existence of a first husband to knowing where he was buried in 75 minutes.

Since starting to work on Florence Vandamm's professional biography, I have been spending odd bits of time searching her name on NYPL's amazing supply of electronic resources. So, one Friday afternoon, I searched the name 

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Classroom Connections: Lists for Lesson Planning (Gr. 6-12)

Aguilar Library, 1938 - Librarian w/ students. Want to know more about our current educational initiatives? See The ABC of Education: Why Libraries Matter by Maggie Jacobs, Director of Educational ProgramsWe have just shuttered the doors on our first Education Innovation @ NYPL Summer Institute. During this three week Institute, master teachers from NYC (and further afar) met curators from our Research 

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Vandamm and the Antarctic, Part 2

Vandamm scrapbook, Billy Rose Theatre DivisionThere is evidence that Commander Evans distributed autographed copies of portraits at his lectures, probably the Vandamm portrait. There is a description, here in the LPA collections, of attending his lecture and receiving an autographed portrait. Unfortunately, it is fictional, but…

Such an experience is detailed in descriptions of New York activities in Our Mutual Girl, a promotional magazine for fans of a film serial made by Mutual and 

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