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

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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Florence Vandamm

Perhaps the most widely published and least understood visual record of 20th century performing arts, the output of the Vandamm Studio has largely been utilized only as illustrative backdrop for the retelling of Broadway history. The prints, contact sheets, and negatives of theater, music and dance in London (1908–1923) and New York (1924–1963) are among the Library for the Performing Arts's most requested treasures.

Few are aware that the visionary photographer and portraitist who lent her talent and name to the studio was a woman and one who opened her 

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A Note on the Upcoming Record Sale at the Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound

1984 Record Sale FlyerOn a rainy spring morning in 1984, over 800 visitors swarmed the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and purchased over 20,000 78s and LPs at the first Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound Duplicate Record Sale. The event raised $14,750 to support the activities of the archive, which began collecting recordings of all types as far back as 1930. Perhaps more importantly, the sale realized space critical to expand the archive, an archive which has since grown to become one of the world's largest, rarest, and most 

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Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury, Prince Among Dancers

Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury Indian folk dance is a very broad term used to describe South Indian dance styles. There are many websites that give information about Indian folk dances and their interpretations.

Bhaskar Roy Chowdhury was one person who achieved a high level of success as an Indian folk dancer. Chowdhury was also an actor, choreographer, author and painter.

Chowdhury was born on February 11, 1930, in Madras, India (now Chennai, India) into a family of Indian royalty. He was the son of Devi Prasad Roy 

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When They Trod the Boards: Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad-Ass on Broadway

Being an actor doesn't shield you from having a conscience.

—Giancarlo Esposito

Giancarlo Esposito, as Gus Fring, stares down a sniper in the TV series Breaking Bad, 2011.Giancarlo, as Julio, sings in the Broadway musical Seesaw, 1973.A true NYC moment: Giancarlo and brother Vincent take a sidewalk hotdog break during the musical The Me Nobody Knows, 1971. Photo: NewsdayI don't know how the final season of the TV series Breaking Bad will end, but it is pretty clear that Walter White is on a one-way trip to hell. As the well-intentioned chemistry teacher turned 

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Kay Brown Barrett: The First Victim of "Scarlett Fever"

Laurence Olivier and Kay Brown BarrettI recently processed the papers of talent scout and agent Kay Brown Barrett, known professionally as Kay Brown, or Katherine Brown. In her capacity as a scout for Selznick International Pictures, she was instrumental in some of the studio's biggest coups. She put Selznick onto the Daphne du Maurier novel, Rebecca, which would be Alfred Hitchcock's first 

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Three Songs From Barefoot Boy With Cheek

Photo by The Graphic House (Theater Photo Collection B)A guest post by Ben West of UnsungMusicalsCo.

When I was approached about recording Barefoot Boy With Cheek, I jumped at the opportunity. Based on the best-selling novel by Tony Award nominee Max Shulman, the zany 1947 romp has quickly become one of my favorite musicals. Sidney Lippman and Sylvia Dee's score is top-drawer Broadway brass and Mr. Shulman's book is both endlessly witty and brilliantly constructed. Yet, the original George Abbott production never received a cast album. Barefoot Boy is truly an unsung musical. As 

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Time Machine: Beauty and the Interval Between

Motion pictures are really a form of compressing time. A shutter opens and closes capturing still images. We are complicit in this magical deceit extrapolating what happened in the interval between. This brief hand colored black and white Edison film in which Annabelle Whitford Moore dances a la trilby or barefoot is my favorite moving image in the library's collection; it is both mechanical and handmade. In this simple embellishment of a magical invention the changing colors hover amorphously over their intended areas 

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A Disturbed Genius Seen Through the Eyes of an Intimate Friend: William Inge and Barbara Baxley

Barbara BaxleyThough not as well remembered today as Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, William Inge was the most successful and acclaimed playwright in America in the 1950s. During that decade, Inge produced an unbroken string of successful plays: Come Back Little Sheba (1950), the Pulitzer Prize winner Picnic 

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The Ken Dewey Collection

All images were used with permission from the Dewey estate.

Dewey's notes for Museum Piece on a map of the Moderna Museet.Picture this: it is April 1963, and you are in Stockholm at the Moderna Museet. Currently on display is the American Pop Art Show. You walk into the museum and are instructed to sit in one of the galleries in a section of chairs arranged to mimic the seats of a subway car. Other people are in chair arrangements that resemble boats, a helicopter, and a tank. Over the next two hours the following events take place: a woman holds forth a conversation with a 

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Stephen Porter (1925-2013)

Photo: Martha SwopeA death notice for the theater director Stephen Porter appears in today's New York Times. Porter, who died on June 11 at the age of 87, won two Drama Desk Awards (for They Knew What They Wanted and Man and Superman) and was twice nominated for the Tony (for The School for Wives and Chemin de Fer).

Porter was associated for many years with the APA Phoenix and New Phoenix repertory companies, where he directed actors like Rachel 

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