University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Archives of the Proscenium Press

1904 - 1993
(bulk dates 1962 - 1993)

Manuscript Collection Number: 313
Accessioned: Purchase, 1975-1993.
Extent: 13 linear ft.
Content: Letters, photographs, contracts, bank statements, drawings, certificates of copyright, catalogs, calendars, broadsides, posters, programs, galley proofs, page layouts, bills (financial), typescripts, journal, drafts (preliminary versions), clippings, photomechanical reproductions, microfilm, poems, books, playbills, and playscripts.
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: February 1995 by Anita A. Wellner.

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Table of Contents


History of the Proscenium Press

According to a brief notice in the August 5, 1967 issue of Saturday Review, Robert Hogan founded the Proscenium Press in 1965. His intention was to fill an educational and cultural need unrecognized by commercial publishers. Hogan believed that large numbers of excellent playscripts, written by distinguished authors, were unavailable to the public, small theaters, and classrooms, because they were not commercially attractive to large publishing firms. Hogan, whose areas of scholarly expertise include modern drama and Irish literature, also wished to make the work of Irish literary figures available to both students and audiences in the United States.

Although Proscenium Press began publishing in 1965, the Press was not incorporated until 1977, when incorporation became a necessary development in seeking tax exempt status as a nonprofit organization. Proscenium Press was incorporated in the State of Delaware, where Hogan had joined the faculty of the University of Delaware in 1970. The purpose of the corporation, as stated in Article III of the Bylaws, is "to promote the dissemination of worthy works of literature by the publication of books, pamphlets and magazines. The primary interest of the corporation is in dramatic art and in Irish literature, and the intention of the corporation is to publish new work by new writers and to republish neglected work by established writers."

The first publication of the Proscenium Press, Elmer Rice's previously unpublished play The Iron Cross (1965), occurred while Robert Hogan was an Associate Professor of English at the University of California at Davis. The Iron Cross, a tragedy about World War I, was the initial title in the Proscenium Press Lost Play Series.

Hogan subsequently added The Short Play Series, which included unpublished work by Brendan Behan; The Adaptations Series; The Contemporary Drama; Gallery Books Series; The Irish Play Series; The New Abbey Theatre Series; The Phoenix Theatre Series of New Plays; and The Proscenium Chapbooks. In addition to the titles in each of these series, Proscenium Press published individual titles: the Irish Literary Calendar (1982-1983), The Journal of Irish Literature (1972-1993), and George Spelvin's Theatre Book (1978-1985).

The Journal of Irish Literature was a scholarly and literary journal containing essays, plays, stories, reviews by and about modern Irish writers, as well as material dealing with Irish history and culture. A number of the issues featured the work of distinguished Irish authors, as well as critical appraisals of their work. Other issues focused on Irish poetry, drama, or a variety of topics, reviews, and fiction in one issue.

During its twenty-two year history, issues of the journal featured the work of Paul Vincent Carroll, Padraic Colum, Flann O'Brien, Frank O'Connor, James Stephens, Francis Stuart, Joseph Campbell, Juanita Casey, Mervyn Wall, Conal O'Riordan, Mary Manning, and Gerald MacNamara.

Proscenium Press was founded and operated as a small and non-profit business, with a typical printing of about 500 copies of most plays, which were nominally priced from $.50 to $2.50. The Journal of Irish Literature had a circulation rate of about 500. Typical of many small presses, Proscenium Press consistently operated at a financial loss, which Robert Hogan offset with personal funds. The archive documents the grants and support sought, and occasionally received, from other sources by Proscenium Press. The Journal of Irish Literature received annual grants by the University of Delaware, occasional support from The Co-ordinating Council of Literary Magazines, and an indirect grant of $10,000 from the National Endowment of the Arts.

From 1965-1993, Proscenium Press published over 75 titles, as well as the twenty-two volumes of The Journal of Irish Literature. Proscenium Press ceased publication in 1993.

In addition to publishing, Proscenium Press also distributed books by small Irish publishing houses, such as Poolbeg Editions and Goldsmith Press, and occasionally produced plays. Hogan's stage adaptation of George Bernard Shaw's An Unsocial Socialist (1972), and his Happy Hour (1973), and his collaboration with James Douglas titled The Painting of Babby Joe (1978) were staged at the University of Delaware, the Provincetown Playhouse in New York, and the Nameless Theatre in New York, respectively.

Sources:

"Trade Winds," Saturday Review, August 5, 1967. p.12.

Note: Information on the institutional history was obtained from documents in Series II.1.


Biographical Note

Robert Goode Hogan, founder and general editor of the Proscenium Press, was born May 29, 1930, in Boonville, Missouri. Following a tour of duty in the United States Army (1950-1952), Robert Hogan completed his education at the University of Missouri, receiving a Bachelor of Arts in 1953, a Master of Arts in 1954, and a Doctor of Philosophy in 1956.

Prior to his retirement from the University of Delaware in 1994, Hogan held university faculty positions throughout the United States, including the University of Missouri-Columbia (1954-1956), Ohio University (1956-1958), Purdue University (1958-1966), University of California-Davis (1966-1970) and the University of Delaware (1970-1994). He was also a visiting professor at University College Dublin (1967-1968) and the University of Rochester, New York (1962-1963).

As the general editor of Proscenium Press, Robert Hogan edited the Journal of Irish Literature (1972-1993), as well as the work of numerous Irish playwrights, including Elmer Rice, Thomas Murphy, Seamus De Burca, Denis Johnston, John B. Keane, Brian Friel, Hugh Leonard, Desmond Forristal, M. J. Molloy, John O'Donovan, Paul Vincent Carroll, Mervyn Wall, and Brendan Behan. Hogan has also edited the Dictionary of Irish Literature (Greenwood Press, 1979) and Seven Irish Plays, 1946-1964 (University of Minnesota, 1967).

As a scholar, Hogan has written numerous critical works, many focusing on Irish playwrights, such as The Experiments of Sean O'Casey (1960), Arthur Miller (1964), The Independence of Elmer Rice (1965), Dion Boucicault (1969), Mervyn Wall (1971), Eimar O'Duffy (1971), and Since O'Casey (1984). With James Kilroy, he co-authored a six-volume study of Irish drama The Modern Irish Drama: a documentary history (1975-1992).

As a playwright, Hogan has written a number of plays which have been produced in the United States and Ireland, including Saint Jane (1966), Betty and the Beast (1968), The Fan Club (1969), The Old Man Says Yes! (1971), Happy Hour (1974), An Unsocial Socialist (1975), Meg and Mick (1982), and A Better Place (1993). He has also co-authored, with Irish playwright James Douglas, at least ten plays, for example The Painting of Babby Joe (1978) and The Wild Turkey (1984). His creative writing has also extended to other genres, including a recently published novel Murder at the Abbey Theatre (1993), written with James Douglas.

In 1993 Robert Hogan ceased the operations of the Proscenium Press, and in 1994 he retired from the University of Delaware. Robert Hogan died on March 5, 1999 in Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland, where he was living with his wife, Irish author Mary Rose Callaghan.

Source:

Trosky, Susan M. (ed.) Contemporary Authors. New Revision Series, Volume 41. Detroit: Gale Research Inc., 1994. pp. 216-217.

Scope and Content Note

The Proscenium Press Archive, acquired directly from Robert Hogan between 1975-1993, consists of thirteen linear feet of letters, photographs, financial papers, contracts, drawings, galley proofs, autograph and typescript drafts, books, theater programs, playscripts, poems, calendars, posters, clippings, microfilm, and catalogs. Spanning the dates 1904-1993 (bulk dates 1962-1993), the archive includes the files of Proscenium Press, as well as some of Robert Hogan's personal and professional papers, and a group of manuscripts written by Robert Hogan's wife, Mary Rose Callaghan.

Comprising more than sixty percent of the archive, Series I. "Letters and manuscripts of authors published by Proscenium Press" consists of the letters and manuscripts received by Robert Hogan from authors whose work was published by Proscenium Press, particularly in The Journal of Irish Literature.

Substantial groups of letters from such noteworthy Irish writers as Juanita Casey, Seamus De Burca, James Douglas, Denis Johnston, Mary Manning, M. J. Molloy, John O'Donovan, and Mervyn Wall are available in this series. Additionally there are smaller collections of letters from Ivy Bannister, Paul Vincent Carroll, Padraic Colum, Seamus Byrne, Desmond Forristal, Brian Friel, Michael Judge, John B. Keane, Brendan Kennelly, Benedict Kiely, Mary Lavin, Bryan MacMahon, Val Mulkerns, Thomas Murphy, Conor Cruise O'Brien, Sean O'Faolain, Seamus O'Neill, Brian Power, Sydney Bernard Smith, and O. Z. Whitehead.

In their letters, the writers consulted with Hogan about publication of their plays or other work, as well as conveyed information about their work and lives. Robert Hogan was not only a publisher but a good friend to many of these Irish authors and those relationships are reflected in the correspondence.

Because one of the goals of Proscenium Press was the publication of modern drama in general, the series also contains letters and manuscripts from several American playwrights, including Eric Bentley, Hamilton Benz, Mario Fratti, David Lan, Louis Phillips, and Elmer Rice. Plays by these writers were ultimately published by Proscenium Press, either in individual volumes or in The Journal of Irish Literature.

Although most of the manuscripts are plays, the series also is comprised of essays, a libretto, stories, poems, and novels written by Irish and Americans authors. Some highlights are stories written by Brendan Behan, Patrick Cunningham, Seamus De Burca, and Juanita Casey; a libretto by Dorothy Robbie; poems by Juanita Casey, Joseph Campbell, John F. Deane, and Brendan Kennelly; essays by Mervyn Wall, Michael Judge, O. Z. Whitehead, and Bryan MacMahon; and novels by James Douglas, Robert Hogan, and Richard Gunn.

The typescripts of plays represent a diverse collection of Irish playwrights, including Daniel Corkery, Conor Farrington, Desmond Forristal, Brian Friel, Denis Johnston, Michael Judge, Hugh Leonard, Bryan MacMahon, Mary Manning, M. J. Molloy, Sydney Bernard Smith, Ivy Bannister, Padraic Colum, Paul Vincent Carroll, Thomas Murphy, Seamus De Burca, John O'Donovan, and James Plunkett.

The first series also includes plays, essays, and a novel written by Robert Hogan. The manuscripts reveal Hogan's talent for collaborating with other writers, particularly with his close friend, James Douglas. Typescripts for nine of their plays, as well as their one novel are available in the archive. Hogan also collaborated on Shelah Richards's autobiography, Let's Play Ghosts, and John O'Donovan's play, The Irrational Knot.

In summary, Series I contains a wealth of information concerning the lives and literary crafts of contemporary Irish writers, particularly playwrights; as well as several modern American playwrights. The series also documents the difficulties for playwrights in securing the publication and production of their plays.

Series II "The Proscenium Press files" includes correspondence, financial papers, inventory books, art work and photographs used in publications, galley proofs, catalogs and price lists, stationery, and copies of publications.

The correspondence deals primarily with the daily operations and financial needs of the Press. Among the files are contracts between Proscenium Press and authors, certificates of copyright, projected budgets, tax documents, grant applications, requests for funding from the University of Delaware, expense summaries, bills from printers, bank statements, and purchase orders for books or journals.

Some letters and documents communicate the negotiations with theaters regarding productions of plays, with agencies or families regarding publication of works by deceased playwrights, with guest editors concerning the contents for issues of the Journal of Irish Literature from guest editors, and with Irish distributors. The correspondence files also reveal the inevitable financial struggles of a small press operation.

Three financial record books list the inventory of Proscenium Press and record the disposition of the publications. Catalogs and price lists record the publications of Proscenium Press, as well as list the books distributed by Proscenium Press for Irish Goldsmith Press and Poolbeg Editions.

Over 200 photographs and negatives of Irish authors, actors, actresses, and landmarks, as well as scenes from productions of plays are available in the Press files. The files also contain some original drawings and photographs of art work, particularly the pen and ink drawings by Juanita Casey. Many of these images appeared in issues of The Journal of Irish Literature.

Galley proofs for some of the individual volumes published by Proscenium Press, for example The Plays of Oliver St. John Gogarty and Three Plays by M. J. Molloy, as well as galleys for volumes 1-5 of The Journal of Irish Literature are available in the Press files.

Series II is concluded with copies of the Irish Literary Calendar, published by Proscenium Press, eight reels of microfilm recording The Journal of Irish Literature (1972-1980), An Index to The Journal of Irish Literature, and a list of thirty-five books published by Proscenium Press. These books were transferred from the collection for cataloging and are available in the printed holdings of Special Collections.

Series III "Robert Hogan personal and professional papers" is comprised of letters; microfilm and photocopies of research material; manuscripts of a play, books, and an introduction written by Hogan; a journal; and theater programs and publications collected by Hogan.

Most of the letters written to Hogan concern either the sender's contributions to The Dictionary of Irish Literature, which Robert Hogan edited, or their responses to Hogan's invitations to lecture at the University of Delaware in 1975. He received responses to the University invitation from such noted writers as Donald Barthelme, Donald Hall, Grace Paley, and Thornton Wilder.

Some letters concern his participation in the Writer's Week in Listowel in 1972; others concern productions of his plays. Many of the letters carry personal greetings or comments on Hogan's speeches or writing.

Typescripts or galleys for Hogan's play A Better Place (1972), his book The Independence of Elmer Rice (1965), and his contributions to The Crows of Mephistopheles and Other Stories (1970) and Toward a National Theatre (1969), combine to exhibit Hogan's versatility as a writer. "A Theatre Journal," in which Hogan chronicles his production of several Irish plays, at the University of Rochester, in 1962-1963, conveys his added talent for producing plays.

Among Hogan's papers are also over 325 theater programs, most of which are for plays written by Irish authors and staged in Great Britain or Ireland. However, there is a small folder of programs for productions staged in the United States. Hogan collected most of these programs while attending performances during his annual visits to Ireland and Great Britain. Several Dublin theaters are well represented, particularly Abbey Theatre, Gaiety Theatre, Gate Theatre, Olympia Theatre, and Peacock Theatre.

The final subseries of Hogan's papers consist of certificates of copyright for four of Hogan's plays, a small collection of research material gathered by Hogan, and some miscellaneous publications sent to Hogan. Among the research material are two reels of microfilm, one of which includes issues of the Irish literary journals, The Arrow, Beltaine, and DANA; and the other contains copies of letters and writing by the Sheridan family and Joseph LeFanu.

Series IV "Manuscripts written by Mary Rose Callaghan" consists of numerous drafts of novels, a play, and juvenile fiction written by Mary Rose Callaghan. Drafts of The Awkward Girl (1990), Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter (1985), Has Anyone Seen Heather? (1990), A House of Fools (n.d.), The Improper Grandfather (n.d.), and Mothers (1984) are present.

In addition to documenting the history of the Proscenium Press and the work of Robert Hogan, this archive provides excellent resources for the study of the development and struggles of a small press, the study of numerous contemporary Irish authors (particularly Irish playwrights), and research material on modern drama.


Arrangement Note

The Archives of the Proscenium Press have been arranged in four series, beginning with Series I "Letters and manuscripts of authors published by Proscenium Press," which is arranged in alphabetical order by author. Within the subseries of each author, the letters are arranged chronologically and the manuscripts alphabetically by title.

Series II "Proscenium Press files" consists of six subseries: correspondence and financial papers; Proscenium Press price lists, catalogs, forms, and stationery; photographs; art work for Proscenium Press publications; galley proofs of Proscenium Press publications; and publications of Proscenium Press. See the subseries descriptions for details of arrangement.

Series III "Robert Hogan personal and professional papers" also includes six subseries: letters, manuscripts written by Hogan, theater programs collected by Hogan, certificates of copyright for plays written by Hogan, research material collected by Hogan, and miscellaneous materials. See subseries descriptions for information about the arrangement.

Series IV "Manuscripts written by Mary Rose Callaghan" is arranged in alphabetical order by title of the manuscript.


Series Outline

                                                           
I.   Letters and manuscripts of authors published
          by Proscenium Press, 1917-1993                     


II.  Proscenium Press files, 1917-1993                       

     1.  Correspondence and financial papers, 1961-1993      
     2.  Proscenium Press price lists, catalogs, forms,
          and stationery, 1966-1983                          
     3.  Photographs, 1917-[1980s]                           
     4.  Art work for Proscenium Press publications,
          ca. 1928-1983                                      
     5.  Galley proofs of Proscenium Press publications,
          1971-1976                                          
     6.  Publications of Proscenium Press, 1972-1983         


III. Robert Hogan personal and professional papers,
          1899-1993                                          

     1.  Letters, 1920-1983                                  
     2.  Manuscripts written by Robert Hogan, 1962-1972      
     3.  Theater programs collected by Robert Hogan,
          1926-1993                                          
     4.  Certificates of copyright for plays written by
          Robert Hogan, 1966-1970                            
     5.  Research material collected by Robert Hogan,
          1899-1969                                          
     6.  Miscellaneous materials,  1965-1981                 


IV.  Manuscripts written by Mary Rose Callaghan, 1976-1990   

     1.  The Awkward Girl, [n.d.]                            
     2.  Confessions of a Prodigal Daughter, [n.d.]          
     3.  Has Anyone Seen Heather? [1989-1990]                
     4.  A House For Fools, [n.d.]                           
     5.  The Improper Grandfather, [n.d.]                    
     6.  Mothers, 1976-[1984]                               

Contents List

Series I: Letters and manuscripts of authors published by Proscenium Press, 1917 - 1993 (bulk dates 1962 - 1993)
Series II: Proscenium Press Files, 1917 - 1993
Series III and IV: Robert Hogan personal and professional papers; Manuscripts written by Mary Rose Callaghan
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