Saturday, June 30, 2012

Community theater in New Orleans

New Orleans has a rich tradition of locally creating and producing theatrical performances.  The Louisiana Research Collection has holdings of various types which document the work and life of these theater groups, including archival collections, books, and ephemera.    Two of these archival collections are Group Theatre records, 1926-1938 (Manuscripts Collection 80) and Le Petit Theatre records, 1919-1966 (Manuscripts Collection 368).

The Group Theatre of New Orleans was a nonprofit community project active during the 1920s and 1930s which was "dedicated to the principle of experiment in all branches of the theatre arts." Productions were presented at Newcomb College and other venues, and included a wide range of classic, modern, local, and foreign works.  The Studio provided instruction to those interested in acting, directing, and the technical side of the theater.    This collection consists of organizational and related records of the Group Theatre of New Orleans.  Included are correspondence, financial documents, lists of participants and subscribers, newspaper clippings, tickets, programs, prompt scripts, photographs, and a report.   Programs are for productions by the Children's Theater Guild, Experimental Theatre, Modern Film Society of New Orleans, and Le Petit Theatre.

The Drawing Room Players, formed in 1916, renamed their group Le Petit Theatre in 1919.   Beginning in 1922, the group purchased and performed at the historic building at 616 St. Peter St. in New Orleans.   Le Petit Theatre was located there continuously throughout the rest of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.   The group associated with the theater held acting workshops, and was also known as New Orleans Little Theatre Productions, Inc.  This collection consists of organizational records and other items collected by members of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre.  Included are the organization's bylaws and charter, legal and financial documents, leases, typed and handwritten correspondence, post cards, greeting cards, programs, a 1925 floor plan, minutes of meetings, subscriber lists, issues of the Sounding board newsletter, sheet music, photographs, press releases, publicity papers, booklets, newspaper clippings and other printed items.  Photographic subjects include actors in performance, members, audiences during performances and in intermission, the switchboard, buildings, and the courtyard.  Correspondents include Louisiana poet Amy Boudreau.  Le Petit Theatre has been affiliated over the years with Newcomb College and Tulane University.   Financial problems caused cancellation of their 2010-2011 season; in 2012, plans are in place for re-opening in 2013.  See this article in, 6/28/12, “Actor Bryan Batt describes the 2013 reopening of Le Petit Theatre.”   Bryan Batt is the author of She Ain’t Heavy, She’s My Mother (PN  2287 .B387 A3 2010 LACOLL) 

A few of the theater groups in New Orleans are: American Theatre Project of New Orleans, Anthony Bean Community Theater and Acting School, Break the Mold Productions, Chard Gonzalez Theatre, Contemporary Arts Center, Crescent City Lights Youth Theater, Crescent Theatre Collective, Cripple Creek Theatre Co.,  Mudlark Public Theatre, New Orleans Opera Association, NOLA Project, NOCCA (New Orleans Center for Creative Arts), Running With Scissors, Shakespearean Festival at Tulane, SideArm Gallery, Skin Horse Theater, Southern Repertory Theater, The Elm Theatre, The Shadowbox Theatre, and Theatre Louisiane, Inc.

Caption:  "Pouring coffee in old Coffee Room, Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre, 1950s"   (368-1-11)
Please do not re-publish photograph without permission.

Posted by Susanna Powers

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thank you Kathryn!

LaRC intern Kathryn Rumer
LaRC intern Kathryn Rumer recently completed her MLIS from the LSU SLIS program. Kathryn made significant contributions to the Louisiana Research Collection since she began volunteering with us two years ago, and during her time as our first Pie Dufour Carnival intern. Kathryn was very involved with the creation of LaRC’s online Carnival collection. This included creating metadata for approximately 6,000 float and costume designs, digitizing the costume designs, and uploading the digital images and the metadata to the LOUIS Digital Library to create the online Carnival Collection. She also completely reboxed the Carnival ephemera collection, and created an Archon finding aid for the Carnival collection. The Carnival Collection’s finding aid currently has 281 Krewes listed as well as complete and accurate inventory lists of float and costume designs, float bulletins, and photographs. We hope to release this finding aid to the public within the next year. Her work in these areas has been a major contribution to the further scholarship on New Orleans carnival history and culture. Kathryn will be returning to her home state of California.

We wish Kathryn the best as she embarks on the next phase of her career.

Posted by Eira Tansey.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Ellen Wilson

Most of LaRC’s archival collections fall into three basic types-- personal papers, family papers, and organizational records.   But the Ellen Elizabeth Latrobe Wilson Papers (Manuscripts Collection 943) is eclectic and blends elements of all three.   The items in this collection came into existence from 1835-1991, with most of them dating from the 1940s to the 1960s.  

Ellen Elizabeth Latrobe Wilson (1919-1991) was born and raised in Baltimore, Md., and later lived in New Orleans for forty years. She was a descendant of Benjamin Henry Latrobe (1764-1820), the noted architect of the United States capitol, and was married to New Orleans architect Samuel Wilson, Jr. (1911-1993). She served in the Navy during the World War II era. She later became a leader in New Orleans community groups, most prominently as president of the Independent Women's Organization, with interest and involvement in the political issues of the day. 

Manuscripts Collection 943 consists of personal, military, and professional papers of Ellen Wilson.  To use the old-fashioned expression, she was often referred to as Mrs. Samuel Wilson.  The collection also contains the Latrobe family papers she had in her possession.  The family papers center around Virginia Latrobe, including such papers as an American passport and French driver’s permit and travel identification papers from the 1920s, but some of the personal handwritten and printed documents had been in the family since 1835.   

The overall collection includes typed and handwritten correspondence, notes, photographs, social stationery and business cards, travel diaries, passports, a large fragile scrapbook of mounted mid-twentieth-century newspaper clippings, and other printed items. The clippings in the scrapbook are mostly about political, gender, and racial issues in New Orleans, apparently of interest to Ellen Wilson herself, and to the Independent Women’s Organization.  The clippings feature stories about politicians including Chep Morrison, Sam Jones and others. Also included are organizational records of the I.W.O. in New Orleans, such as business correspondence, minutes, election information, press releases, photographs of events, and membership documents.  Mrs. Wilson also participated in other groups in town, including the Children's Bureau, the Fashion Group of New Orleans, and St. Mary's Dominican College Associates. 

The use of the husband’s name to identify his wife was in widespread and common practice well into the twentieth century in the United States, not just as a formality on invitations.  As women came to be usually known by their own names, it is fitting that by 1991, the headline on her obituary calls her “Ellen Wilson”--particularly appropriate for a socially-conscious feminist.   

Captions: Photograph of officers of the Independent Women's Organization at the group's 1962 annual meeting at Jaeger's Seafood Restaurant in New Orleans. (Mrs. Samuel Wilson, Jr., center); verso of photograph with newspaper clipping listing all the women by their husbands' names; Ellen Wilson's 1991 obituary.

Posted by Susanna Powers