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Margaret Mather's production of Romeo and Juliet

Shakespeare's Star Turn in America

In celebration of the enduring inspiration of William Shakespeare’s plays, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts will present an exhibition in its Astor Gallery. Using artifacts from the Library’s own collections, the exhibition will document the on-going popularity of Shakespeare’s plays in North America from Colonial times to present day. The artifacts include broadsides and programs, engravings and photographs, original set and costume designs, set models and costumes, letters detailing tour conditions, and prompt scripts used by Edwin Booth, Orson Welles, Katharine Hepburn, and actors in recent Shakespeare Festival productions.  

Discover which plays were performed when and where, and how they served American social history. The exhibition highlights well-known classics, such as Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth, and also directs attention to plays with particular historic relationships, such as King John, which was popular just before and after the Revolution, the Roman history plays, frequently performed in the 1930s for their emphasis on political responsibility, and the pageant version of The Tempest, specifically created for the 1916 Tercentenary. Artifacts and media for Much Ado about Nothing and other comedies are also displayed, revealing the non-traditional casting and period switches typical of contemporary American Shakespeare festivals.

February 18th, 2016 - May 27th, 2016 New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center

From the Exhibition

Stereogram of Edwin Booth costumed for the graveyard scene in his production of "Hamlet."

Edwin Booth was one of the most celebrated actors and public figures of the second half of the 19th century.  He was a major promoter of theater and photography as documentation and as technology.  The stereogram, then considered a novelty artifact, was taken by Jeremiah Gurney & Son, a prominent New York studio. Booth went to Gurney for sessions that resulted in all of the then-available formats -- cartes de visite, stereograms and cabinet photographs for headshots and character portraits.  

An engraving based on this pose appeared on the title page of Booth's acting edition of Hamlet. His prompt book and the stereogram can be seen in the exhibition Shakespeare's Star Turn in America.

Booth-Grossman Family Papers, Billy Rose Theater Division

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Featured Event

Watching Dancing Henry Five

The Library for the Performing Arts will screen a 2011 performance of Gordon’s Dancing Henry Five, based on Henry V by William Shakespeare. Gordon will be joined by cast members including Valda Setterfield and Karen Graham, along with producer Alyce Dissette, original commissioning presenter for Danspace Project Laurie Uprichard, and Jedediah Wheeler, Executive Director of Peak Performances at Montclair State University, where the 2011 performance was recorded.

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