Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Biblio File, Paperless Research, eReading Room, LIVE from the NYPL Blog

When They Trod the Boards: John Lithgow


We hereby announce the new blog series When They Trod the Boards, designed to highlight notable film or television actors who have a substantial background in stage work as documented in the collections of the Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division. We launch the series with John Lithgow and his new memoir, Drama: An Actor’s Education,  published this week. Traditional books and ebooks are now flying off the Library's shelves! We’d like to highlight some of his shining moments on stage as reflected in our vast collection of stage photographs.

While many will know Lithgow from his television work as the lovably neurotic alien in 3rd Rock From the Sun, from his movie work in Harry and the Hendersons and The World According to Garp, as well as from his memorable voiceover work, lovers of the stage have long enjoyed his presence on and off-Broadway.

According to Contemporary Theatre Film and Television (the go-to source for bios and performance histories), John Lithgow debuted on stage as Mustardseed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Antioch Shakespeare Festival in 1953, but readers of his new bio will learn that his acting debut actually started much earlier, at age 2. Lithgow's Broadway debut was in The Changing Room in 1973, for which he won both a Tony and a Drama Desk Award.

When Lithgow did picture research for Drama: An Actor's Education at the Library for the Performing Arts, he was thrilled to see LPA's wealth of photographs documenting his stage career. But he was also pleased as Punch to discover we had material on his father Arthur Lithgow, the director of the McCarter Theatre of Princeton University, and a central figure in his life story.

Lithgow is not only an accomplished actor, but also a poet, musician, and children’s book author. Check out the Library's ebooks and Tumblebooks site for any of these items. 

For more depth on Lithgow's career, be sure to visit The New York Public Library's Articles and Databases page for early accounts of Lithgow’s years at Harvard and The McCarter Theatre, as published in such papers as the Boston Globe. More seasoned researchers may already be familiar with the Theatre Division's bound stage reviews dating back to 1917, which contain original Broadway and Off-Broadway reviews culled from a wide range of current and defunct newspapers and magazines, some of which are difficult or impossible to find online.

The Billy Rose Theatre Division also has clipping files on Lithgow, his father, and a majority of the shows they worked on, as well as posters, scrapbooks, original scripts, and even set and costume designs to round out our scope of documentation.

Last, but certainly not least, the Theatre on Film and Tape Archive has in their collection taped performances of A Memory of Two Mondays, Beyond Therapy, M. Butterfly, Secret Service, The Retreat From Moscow, Sweet Smell of Success, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and excerpts from Requiem For a Heavyweight and The Front Page.

We invite your feedback regarding this new "When They Trod the Boards" blog series, as well as your suggestions for future subjects.

Watch the recent the LIVE from the NYPL interview Conversations from the Cullman Center:John Lithgow and Bill Moyers from October 11, 2011.



JOHN LITHGOW in conversation with Bill Moyers
October 11, 2011

Viewing videos on requires Adobe Flash Player 9 or higher.

Get the Flash plugin from


Copy the embed code below to add this video to your site, blog, or profile.


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Post new comment