William B. Harris Papers Collection

Authored by Emma Kelly

Peter Pan Playbill

Playbill for a production of J.M. Barrie’s “Peter Pan or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up” from the William Harris Papers.

William B. Harris collected this playbill, along with many other theater-related items.  The collection is titled “The William Harris Papers,” and is located at Marymount Manhattan College in their library’s archives.  “This collection has been completely processed and consists of 96 scripts, 4,450 folders of clippings and a collection of photographs gathered by Mr. Harris during the decades of the 1960s to the 1990s, to support his work as a critic of avant-garde theater and dance in downtown Manhattan.”[1]  The collection is alphabetically organized within eight genres, (unpublished scripts, clippings, a videocassette, photographs, books, ephemera, periodicals, and recordings) three of which are not preserved in the archives, and are titled as Series 1-8.[2]

The object that I chose to use for this project was a playbill for a theater production of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.  The playbill itself was for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s version of the play, published by DPS (Dramatists Play Service, Inc.) in New York.  It was adapted by John Caird and Trevor Nunn and first performed at the Barbican Theatre in December of 1982.  According to JohnCaird.com, a male played the part of Peter for the first time in this specific production.  “Up until then the part had always been played by an adult actress with the other children’s roles being played by a mix of adults and children. Thus one of the greatest dramatic love stories ever written had degenerated into a grim annual pantomime, so far from Barrie’s original intention he would have wept to see it.”[3]

This AS-L project helps to provide a source of information on theater arts in New York City.  “A general assessment of Harris’ work reveals a passionate advocate of the performing arts possessed of a finely honed aesthetic and a wide range of artistic sensibilities…  He was not afraid to express his affinity for the underdogs and unknowns who he thought deserved acclaim…”[4] The “William Harris Papers” reflects his love and adoration for theater, and his respect for all those involved in creating art.  The core AS-L values require that the project provide a voice for the underrepresented, and the “William Harris Papers” does just that.  The theater productions that Mr. Harris shed light on, allowed for the acknowledgement of great works of art.

[1] “Archives,” Marymount Manhattan College, accessed on March 25, 2014, http://www.mmm.edu/offices/library/archives.php.

[2] Mary E. Brown, “The William Harris Papers,” Marymount Manhattan College, processed October 2, 2001, accessed March 25, 2014, http://www.mmm.edu/live/files/98-harrisguidepdf.

[3] “Peter Pan,” JohnCaird.com, accessed on March 25, 2014, http://johncaird.com/theatre/peter_pan_rsc_1.html.

[4] Mary E. Brown, William Gardell, and Nick Pavlik,  “Addendum to The William Harris Papers,” Marymount Manhattan College, processed September 8, 2009, accessed March 25, 2014, http://www.mmm.edu/live/files/97-harrisguideaddendumpdf.


“Archives.” Marymount Manhattan College. Accessed on March 25, 2014. http://www.mmm.edu/offices/library/archives.php.

Brown, Mary E., William Gardell, and Nick Pavlik. “Addendum to The William Harris Papers.” Marymount Manhattan College. Processed September 8, 2009. Accessed March 25, 2014. http://www.mmm.edu/live/files/97-harrisguideaddendumpdf.

Brown, Mary E. “The William Harris Papers.” Marymount Manhattan College. Processed October 2, 2001. Accessed March 25, 2014. http://www.mmm.edu/live/files/98-harrisguidepdf.

“Peter Pan.” JohnCaird.com. Accessed on March 25, 2014. http://johncaird.com/theatre/peter_pan_rsc_1.html.