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Posts from New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

Review of "Exploring The Rise and Fall of Paramount Records" LIVE at NYPL

The line formed early outside of Edna Barnes Salomon Reading Room as this particular event in the Live from the NYPL series was the hottest ticket in town on a cold fall night. Who would have thought that a round table discussion regarding the collapse of quirky record 

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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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Time Machine: Concatenations in Time Travel, VHS a cc: to the Future

I am remembering our old purchase order form, a multi copy (ten copies press firmly) missive to Ruth, our beloved curmudgeon in Purchasing (her voicemail began with a sigh). Each copy was fainter and less readable than its predecessor. I am thinking about VHS, a format that succeeded by virtue of its worst quality, the ability to record at a slower speed (up to six hours on a T-120 cassette). What better way for balletomanes to compile every dance performance ever broadcast on two 

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Over 4,000 Dance Prints and Designs Now Available

The Jerome Robbins Dance Division just completed a two year project to catalog our backlog of dance related artwork. We are thrilled to announce that a total of 4,349 objects were cataloged and are now available to the public for research. Retired staff member Susan Au was hired for this project and she researched, cataloged, and rehoused these materials. This blog post is taken from her final report on the project. This project was made possible through funds generously donated from the Friends of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, which is co-chaired by Anne Bass and Caroline Cronson. Read More ›

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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Preserving the Visual Past: An Introduction

When people ask me what I do, I usually answer them by stating that I'm in the restoration business. Anyone who has ever seen an episode of This Old House knows what it is when something is restored. Restoring an item also has this connotation that you will soon get that object back near its original form. It is easier to grasp and I get less blank stares. It is another story altogether when I tell them I work in Preservation.

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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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Time Machine: Problematic Travel with U-matic

U-matic was once the industry's serviceable vehicle. Today it could take you back 40 years or more. If you intend to take a ride, you will have to accept a few compromises, as with any antique vehicle maintenance and parts are always a concern. The most charming artifact of the older black and white recordings is lag or ghosting in the camera imaging tube in which people appear to leave their bodies and follow themselves about, making every solo an eerie duet. 

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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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Children's Theater in New York City

A patron wrote in to ASK NYPL, the virtual reference service of The New York Public Library, to find out about the state of children's theater in New York City. More specifically, the patron wanted to know the total number of children age 6-11 in each of the five boroughs of the City; the various theaters in the City that feature children's 

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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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Across A Crowded Room Meetup

UPDATED: September 25, 2013

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts is excited to announce the first ever meetup for participants in the musical theater writing game, Across A Crowded Room

Participants have been placed into nine groups, each with a composer, a lyricist, a book-writers, and a singer, and given 10 days to a plot a synopsis with song titles and at least one complete song (with music and lyrics) in response to the prompt:  

Write a musical set during the 2013 NYC mayoral 

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Lamine Thiam's Dance Oral History Interview

Lamine Thiam teaching dance classThis past spring in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, we were very pleased to produce an inspiring Oral History Project interview with Lamine Thiam. A world-renowned dancer, choreographer, drummer and actor, Mr. Thiam specializes in West African Dance from his native Sénégal and neighboring countries. We digitally filmed Carolyn Webb's interview with Mr. Thiam, so that it is now among the first dance videos to 

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Time Machine: Personal 8 mm Film and Video by Jerome Robbins

I have an inordinate love of 8 mm film. Not just because of its familiar 4:3 TV aspect ratio that so many of us were raised on, but because it was the first medium many of us used for time travel. The persistent click of the pull down claw is a rhythm from memory that can lull us into the past. Occasionally, I feel that I have been the subject of an archival Ludovico Technique and have watched so many pas des deux that when ordinary non-dance material offers me 

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Musical of the Month: Bless You All

A guest post by Ben West of UnsungMusicalsCo.

Between March 1946 and December 1948, six highly successful musical revues opened on Broadway, playing a combined total of 2,653 performances and marking a brief resurgence of the once fashionable form. The rapturous response to these half-dozen hits was quite likely the driving force behind the pack of ten new entries that stormed the scene in the three years that followed (1949-1951).

However, with the exception of the Bert Lahr-Dolores Gray vehicle

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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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Vandamm and the Antarctic, Part I

Vandamm scrapbook, Billy Rose Theatre DivisionOne of the factors that brought success to the Florence Vandamm Studio in London and, later the Vandamm Studio in NYC, was her ability to keep track of negatives. This blog contains a prime early demonstration of that ability. Spoiler Alert—it gets a little bit surreal.

Like many photo studios, she created pairs of photographs of military officers and their wives, before assignments overseas. In 1912, she made a set of photographs (profiles, seated, standing, together, and separately) for a Royal Navy officer, 

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Vandamm, the Suffragist?

I admit to a historical prejudice—I really wanted Florence Vandamm to be a Suffragist. A woman running her own business in London, 1908, it just seemed natural. But the road to verification had surprising detours. The self-portrait that is the blog channel's key image gave me clues, but the Internet gave me proof and a great pay-off.

In the 1908–1915 scrapbook, there were newsprint copies of two sets of poses, of Adeline Bourne. One group were in harem-y clothes and showed her in costume for Salome (February 27–28, 1910). Others, including 

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