February 27 - April 27, 2002. The Play's the Thing: Theatrical Manuscripts & Prompt Books from the Harvard Theatre Collection. Curated by Fredric Woodbridge Wilson.
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February 27 - April 27, 2002
The Play's the Thing: Theatrical Manuscripts & Prompt Books
from the Harvard Theatre Collection
Curated by Fredric Woodbridge Wilson

Drawn from the Harvard Theatre Collection of the Houghton Library, the rare book and manuscript library of Harvard College, the exhibition will highlight original manuscripts of significant dramatists and prompt books from important productions, complemented by a large assortment of related material such as letters, contracts, original designs and portraits, en-gravings, posters, playbills, and photographs. Manuscripts in the exhibition will range from a medieval French mystery play, to manuscripts by Richard Brinsley Sheridan and Oscar Wilde, to the prompt books for the original productions of Thornton Wilder's Our Town and Tennessee Williams's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.

Among the one hundred and fifty treasures to be included in the exhibition are:

* The account book for the theater at Lincoln's Inn Fields, London, including the financial details of the first production of John Gay's The Beggar's Opera.

* The original prompt book for John Wilkes Booth's production of Shakespeare's Richard III, in which Booth appeared in the title role.

* The original typescript for the first production of George Bernard Shaw's Major Barbara, heavily annotated prior to publication.

* The manuscript memoirs of the celebrated actress Sarah Siddons.

* An album of original designs for Jean Cocteau's ballet Phèdre, with music by George Auric, produced at the Paris Opera, formerly in the library of Pamela Harriman.

* Autograph manuscript musical scores by Nicolai Tcherepnin, Darius Milhaud, and Igor Stravinsky, for ballets produced by Serge Diaghilev and George Balanchine.

* The original scenario by Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein for their ballet Fancy Free.

* Original costume and scene designs ranging from Daniel Rabel's seventeenth century design for a court festival ballet to designs by Léon Bakst and Alexander Golovin for The Firebird.

* Unique copies of the earliest known English playbill, for Bartholomew Fair about 1655, and the earliest known American playbill, printed in New York in 1750.

With this exhibition the Harvard Theatre Collection celebrates the one hundredth anniversary of its founding. The Theatre Collection was the first of its kind to be established in this country, and for many years was the largest in the world. Today it remains one of the largest, and the most diverse. This exhibition will review major donations that built the collection to a preëminent position in the areas of theater and dance history.

The exhibition is organized by Fredric Woodbridge Wilson, curator of the Harvard Theatre Collection.

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