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The Performing Arts

Selected Manuscript and Archival Sources
for Dance, Music, and Theater


The traditional performing arts – dance, music, and theater – are well represented in our manuscript and archival collections. A number of primary collections focusing on institutions, organizations, and individuals involved with these arts are housed in Special Collections. In accordance with the Library's collection strengths in twentieth-century American literature, our holdings include the works of such noted playwrights as Tennessee Williams (see, for example, MSS 112 and MSS 270). The Library also holds a number of original playscripts written by authors primarily identified with other literary genres, including Ernest Hemingway, Diane di Prima, and Kurt Vonnegut, among others. Holdings related to Irish theater are also particularly strong, including sources as diverse as scrapbooks documenting the history of theater in Dublin (MSS 374), works of contemporary drama from the Archives of the Proscenium Press (MSS 313), and the playscripts of Padraic Colum (see, among others, MSS 099 F501 and MSS 099 F643).

Performing arts in Delaware, the Brandywine Valley, and the greater Delaware Valley are represented in a number of collections, notably the archives of the Delaware Theater Company and the Rita Farrell collection related to Dance. The ephemeral nature of the performing arts is captured in programs, tickets, advertising broadsides, posters, photographs, and sheet music.

The following collections, unless otherwise noted, are open and available for research in the Special Collections Department of the University of Delaware Library. Detailed finding aids provide further description for each collection. Librarians are also available for assistance with using archival material.

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Primary Collections

The main subject of each of the following collections pertains to the performing arts. The manuscripts and papers may include one or all of the traditional performing arts: dance, music, and theatre.

MSS 308 American Academy of Music papers, 1852 - c. 1940 (bulk dates 1896 - 1919), 1.6 linear ft.

The Philadelphia-based Academy opened one of America's grandest nineteenth-century opera houses in 1857. Widely known as a venue for opera and classical music, the hall also hosted political and religious gatherings, educational lectures, and, around the turn of the twentieth century, travel talks featuring lantern slides and early motion pictures. This small collection provides an incomplete but useful glimpse at the Academy's institutional structure and entertainment programming. Administrative correspondence, a small body of programs, and promotional flyers from 1873 to c. 1940 are preserved in the collection.

MSS 332 BBC Third Programme Radio scripts, 1940 - 1969, 3.3 linear ft.

The collection consists of 232 radio scripts (and a few production notes) produced by Douglas Cleverdon for BBC's "literary magazine of the air," The Third Programme. The majority of the scripts are adaptations and productions of works by noted authors, playwrights, and poets, such as Dylan Thomas, Sylvia Plath, and Henry Mayhew.

Samuel Beckett papers

This collection is unprocessed. Please contact a Special Collections reference librarian for assistance.

Paul Bowles papers supplement.

This collection is unprocessed. Please contact a Special Collections reference librarian for assistance.

MSS 270 Ralph Delauney collection related to Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo, 1947 -1953, .6 linear ft.

The papers include the playscript, as well as revisions, correspondence, bills and receipts, budgets, clippings, notes, itineraries, theater programs, and sketches of the set. The material was gathered by Ralph Delauney in his role as stage manager for both the 1950 world premiere production of Tennessee Williams's The Rose Tattoo at Erlanger Theatre in Chicago, and the 1951 New York run at the Martin Beck Theatre.

MSS 430 Rita Katz Farrell collection related to Dance, 1920 - 1993 (bulk dates 1950s - 1993), 13.6 linear ft.

Delaware resident and syndicated journalist Rita Katz Farrell amassed these extensive reference and research files, programs, production notes, and promotional material about dance and theatre in the last half of the twentieth century. The collection is especially strong at documenting the performing arts in Delaware and the greater Delaware Valley region.

MSS 374 Irish Theatre journals, 1793 - 1901 (bulk dates 1868 - 1901), .6 linear ft.

The Irish Theatre journals comprises six bound volumes of clippings, programs, articles, and autograph notes regarding theater in Dublin, Ireland. The scrapbook/journals form a collection of research material, possibly for a book or articles on the history of theater in Dublin.

MSS 205 Philadelphia Theatrical papers, 1877 - 1943, 1.2 linear ft.

National in scope but focusing on the business of Philadelphia theater, the collection contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, advertisements, programs, playbills, financial documents, ledgers, obituaries, postcards, contracts, broadsides, scrapbooks, and telegrams. Material from several production agencies and touring companies is also included, with the majority of the documents relating to the theatrical management team of Nixon and Zimmerman.

MSS 313 Archives of the Proscenium Press, 1904 - 1993 (bulk dates 1962 - 1993), 13 linear ft.

With primary interests in dramatic art and Irish literature, Robert Hogan founded the Proscenium Press in 1965 "to publish new work by new writers and to republish neglected work by established writers." In addition to the Journal of Irish Literature, the Press published 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; and The Phoenix Theatre Series of New Plays. Numerous playscripts, manuscripts, librettos, theater programs, and biographical files on playwrights and directors are found in the publishing archives.

MSS 335 The Ulster Theatre plays, 1912 - 1928, 6 items

The Ulster Theatre plays collection contains scripts of six plays by Ulster writers that were produced by the Ulster Theater in Northern Ireland in the early 1900s. Playwrights represented in the collection include Shan F. Bullock, Bernard Duffy, N. Richard Hayward, and Gerald MacNamara.

MSS 213 Ricardo Viñes collection of music manuscripts, 1903 - 1928, 35 items

The Catalan pianist Ricardo Viñes lived in Lérida, Spain, during the late 19th century. The collection consists of thirty-six original piano works, piano transcriptions, and cadenzas from his personal music library. Thirty-five of the works are music manuscripts and several bear the composer's original autograph.

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Plays, Playscripts, and Playwrights

MSS 419 The Bassoon, 1889 - 1892, 5 v.

The Bassoon collection contains amateur plays written by a small club of teenage boys who attended the all-male Central High School of Philadelphia.

MSS 324 Paul Bowles letters to John Martin, 1975 - 1990, .3 linear ft.

The collection contains Paul Bowles's English translation of Mohammed Mrabet's play, Earth (from the original Moghrebi, a Moroccan vernacular).

MSS 323 Paul Bowles letters to William Saroyan, 1937-1942, 12 items.

The letters document Bowles's thoughts on collaborating with Saroyan on an opera, from choosing a subject to describing his work on the score for Opera, Opera and finally to the ultimate demise of the project in 1942, when Bowles writes that Opera, Opera is "dead."

MSS 330 Joseph K. Caldwell papers, 1938 - 2000, 13.5 linear ft.

The papers of American novelist and playwright Joseph K. Caldwell include numerous manuscripts of his plays and television play scripts. Caldwell received two "John Golden Fellowships in Playwriting" at Yale University (1956-1957) and an American Broadcasting Company Fellowship in Playwriting, also at Yale. His plays have been produced off-Broadway, as well as transformed into television scripts.

MSS 105 The Emily Holmes Coleman papers, 1852 - 1988 (bulk dates 1930 - 1970), 50 linear ft.

The papers of American poet and novelist Emily Holmes Coleman contain literary, personal, and family materials. Numerous "plays, dramas, and dialogues" (most of which are theological in nature) are found with her essays, stories, and poems in Series III.

MSS 147 Padraic Colum papers, 1927 - 1970, 80 items

Padraic Colum signed the original charter of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, Ireland, and wrote some of its earliest plays. Series III contains typescript drafts of Monasterboice, Balloon, and The Wakefield Second Nativity Play. An autograph draft of Justinian and Theodora are also housed in the collection, as well as correspondence with theatrical producer Basil Burwell.

MSS 264 Montgomery Evans II collection of Lord Dunsany manuscripts, 1912 - 1935, 21 items

Lord Dunsany (Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett) was an Irish poet, playwright, and short story writer. Series I contains the galley proofs of Dunsany's collection of plays, Plays of Gods and Men.

MSS 291 Jay Halio papers related to Angus Wilson, 1953 - 1980 (bulk dates 1962 - 1966), .6 linear ft.

Included are two 1953 publications and two playscripts, The Stranger (1960) and After the Show (n.d.), both inscribed by English author and critic, Angus Wilson.

MSS 101 Mark Harris papers, 1937 - 1982, 23 linear ft.

The collection is a comprehensive archive that documents every facet of the life and career of this American author. Series IV contains six of his plays.

MSS 344 James Leo Herlihy papers, 1959 - 1986, 1.6 linear ft.

The papers of American author and playwright James Leo Herlihy consist of manuscripts of novels, stories, and plays, reviews, interviews, correspondence, publicity material, and notes.

MSS 200 Katherine Hoskins papers, 1888 - 1988 (bulk dates 1950-1969), .6 linear ft.

The papers of American poet Katherine Hoskins include typescripts of five of Hoskins' plays that were produced but never published. The plays date from the late 1940s and the early 1950s.

MSS 191 Donald Justice papers, 1936 - 1998 (bulk dates 1952-1996), 10 linear ft.

In addition to the poems of this Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, the collection also contains librettos, operas, plays, stories, and prose, as well as several ideas for novels.

MSS 99 F531 Anita Loos letters to Ray Pierre Corsini, 1962 - 1979, 22 items

Letters from American novelist and playwright Anita Loos to her agent and friend, Ray Pierre Corsini. The letters discuss, for example, the writing and editing of Loos's later works.

MSS 136 Frank J. Hugh O'Donnell papers, 1911 - 1974 (bulk dates 1918 - 1954), 1.3 linear ft.

Irish businessman and amateur playwright Frank J. Hugh O'Donnell was noted for his political efforts on behalf of an Irish Free State. Series I contains letters written to O'Donnell that communicate his efforts to stage performances of his plays. The collection also includes letters from managers of Irish theatres, Irish playwrights, artists, and literary figures.

MSS 301 Asa Pieratt collection of ephemera relating to Kurt Vonnegut, 1972 - 1996, 1 linear ft.

Series I includes ideas for a screen treatment of Slapstick. The series also includes magazines that contain excerpts from Vonnegut's musical Requiem. Series II contains materials on performances, productions, and exhibitions based on work by Vonnegut.

MSS 398 Ishmael Reed papers, 1964 - 1995, 65 linear ft.

The papers of the African-American novelist, poet, and publisher, Ishmael Reed include plays, sound recordings, audiovisual recordings, and miscellaneous ephemera.

MSS 102 Bernard Shaw collection, 1887 - 1947, 56 items

In addition to being a renowned playwright, Bernard Shaw is also remembered for the challenging prefaces he wrote to his plays and books. Prefaces, which was published in 1934, is a collection of a number of these works. The manuscripts in this collection include galley proofs and reviews of his works.

MSS 194 Sam Shepard collection, 1968 - 1979, 7 items

The collection is a group of seven incidental items related to the dramatic work of this American playwright, who is also known as an actor, author, and film director. The collection includes three playscripts, two programs, a contract, and a poster.

MSS 138 John Wieners papers, 1961 - 1968, 20 items

The papers of American Beat poet John Wieners provide a chronologically and thematically fragmented, yet detailed, glimpse at his life. This small collection includes the manuscript of Asphodel in Hell's despite, a one-act play by Wieners.

MSS 422 William John Williams papers, 1876 - 1923 (bulk dates 1876-1896), .7 linear ft.

The last series of this collection houses between five and eight plays (three of the items may be different acts from the same play). These playscripts suggest the possibility that Williams participated in various amateur theatrical productions.

MSS 112 Tennessee Williams collection, 1939 - 1990, 4.6 linear ft.

Half of the collection is comprised of manuscripts of plays, poems, essays, and other work written by playwright Williams. The other half of the collection is supporting material such as photographs of the writer and productions of his plays, programs and playbills from performances of his work, correspondence related to his playscripts, articles about Williams or his work, and theatrical and film ephemera.

MSS 99 F265 Kurt Vonnegut. Slapstick, 1981, 1 item

Includes a mimeographed typescript of the original screenplay.

Note: Researchers can find additional plays by searching our online finding aids to Manuscript Collections. A search of genre terms (such as Irish plays, film, Broadway plays, playwrights, sheet music, and theatrical management) will uncover additional material. A number of collections contain single dramatic works. Many plays, including those by by Diane di Palma, Bernard Duffy, Ernest Hemingway, Sean O'Casey, Frank O'Connor, Edna O'Brien, James Purdy, Kurt Vonnegut, and William de Witt Snodgrass, are housed in MSS 099 Miscellaneous Literary & Historical Manuscripts.

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Delaware and Brandywine Valley

MSS 179 Delaware Oral History collection, 1966 - 1978, 294 tapes (188 transcribed)

Includes audio recordings about theater in Arden, Delaware, the Wilmington Drama League, and radio pioneer Willard S. Wilson, Sr.

Delaware Theatre Company records

The Delaware Theatre Company records provide a behind-the-scenes look at the operation of a regional professional theater company. The papers include administrative materials, such as meeting minutes, agendas and correspondence from DTC's Board members and committees. Financial documentation such as annual budgets and donations are also represented, as well as resources for grants and fundraising information. There is a significant amount of material relating to DTC's development and outreach efforts; this includes marketing and publicity materials, press and news clippings, and community outreach projects. A bulk of the collection is made up of material relating to play production, including production files, director's notes, playbills, actor's information and season planning. Artistic Director, Cleveland Morris', professional papers are also included in this collection.

MSS 276 Delaware Victory Bond manuscript collection, 1944 - 1945, .66 linear ft.

The collection consists of four original manuscripts, a photograph, several letters, and sale-related ephemera auctioned by the Delaware War Finance Committee as part of a victory bond drive at the Books and Authors Rally at the Playhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, on December 10, 1945. One of the four manuscripts preserved in the collection is Carl Carmer's playscript Our Flag Was Still There.

MSS 235 Newark Music Society records, 1923 - 1945, .3 linear ft.

The Newark Music Society records consist of all of the known organizational papers generated by the Society during its activity and maintained in the Society's "secretary book" by Miss Freda Ritz, secretary of the society from 1924 - 1945. These include the organization's constitution; minutes of the Society's organizational, annual and committee meetings; annual reports of the president and treasurer; announcements and press releases; and several programs from Society "musicales" and concerts given under Society auspices. The papers range between the years 1923 and 1945 with the bulk of the business and related papers dated within the spans 1923-1926 or 1935- 1940. Programmes run continuously from 1924 to 1945.

Jack Sturgell papers

This collection is unprocessed. Please contact a Special Collections reference librarian for assistance.

MSS 145 Grace Lloyd Walsh papers, 1910 - 1992, (bulk dates 1913 - 1935 and 1957 - 1970), 1.5 linear ft.

The papers of Wilmington businesswoman Grace Lloyd Walsh contain ephemera from the Robin Hood Theatre, Arden, Delaware.

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MSS 163 Paul Bowles papers, 1960 - 1985, 2.3 linear ft.

The manuscript for Jane Bowles's play, At the Jumping Bean, is housed with this material.

MSS 131 Kay Boyle papers, 1930 - 1991 (bulk dates 1960 - 1986), 6 linear ft.

Series II includes articles, a play, book reviews, a novel, poems, and drafts of several works of nonfiction.

MSS 363 Edward Field papers, 1943 - 1994, 21 linear ft.

The papers contain posters, programs, flyers, plays, and ephemera.

MSS 421 Alice Marston scrapbook, 1896 - 1906, 1 v.

Alice Marston collected and preserved materials about turn-of-the-century society in Philadelphia. A variety of social ephemera is included in the scrapbook, including playbills, programs, and tickets.

MSS 362 Berta Ruck Travel journals, 1928 - 1937, 6 v. (.6 linear ft).

The Berta Ruck travel journals contain memorabilia from her travels. Throughout the journals there are numerous mementoes of her journeys, including theatre and music programs.

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Other Collections

Sheet Music collection

This collection is unprocessed. Please contact a Special Collections reference librarian for assistance.

Theatre Poster collection

This collection is unprocessed. Please contact a Special Collections reference librarian for assistance.

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