Roy Cohn/Jack Smith: Two Views of being Homosexual in America

Authored by Daisy Lorenzo

A copy of an invitation received by William Harris from actor Ron Vawter for a special friends only performance of Vawter’s Roy Cohn/Jack Smith. The letter was sent on April 15, 1992. The image displays Vawter in his roles of Cohn and Smith.

Roy Cohn/Jack Smith is Ron Vawter’s depiction of two white, homosexual men who lead very different lives in the 1950s, but whom both died of AIDS related illnesses in the 80’s. Vawter (1994) uses his performance to focus on the “two powerful forces which shaped their lives: A Virus, and a society which sought to repress their sexuality” (0:10:36-0:10:45). This one-man show has been, thankfully, preserved with the help of filmmaker Jill Godmilow.

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Gigi: How an Unlikely Duo Created Magic on Screen and on Stage to Bring Stories to Life

Authored by Melissa Nogues

This newspaper clipping shows an advertisement for the Broadway Musical Gigi, along with an advertisement for the original Broadway cast album. Favorite songs and new songs are highlighted.

‘Gigi’ is a great example of how a story can be told in different formats to give the viewers unique experiences. The story of ‘Gigi’ originated as a novel by Collete (Barnes 1973). This was then turned into a play, which Lerner and Loewe originally decided to adapt into a movie musical in 1958 (Encyclopedia of World Biography 2020). From the movie musical, the pair then created the Broadway show with additional songs and flair. The above advertisement highlights these new changes. In this story, the main character Gigi is sent off to be taught how to be an elegant woman, but on the way she falls for a man for which an interesting arrangement is then made (Barnes 1973). The details from the original story might be lost in the musical production, but what is gained is an enchanting viewer experience.

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Coretta Scott King: An Unyielding Voice for Change

Authored by Elliot Clement

After receiving an honorary doctorate from Marymount Manhattan College, Coretta Scott King sent this letter to Sister Colette Mahoney at the college. This event took place a little over a year after Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

Coretta Scott King devoted “a lifetime to raising public consciousness around issues related to human rights and social justice,” and although many know her primarily through her husband, Martin Luther King, Jr., she was a powerful force for change in her own right (Crawford 2007, 116). She earned numerous accolades and over sixty honorary doctorates, including one from Marymount Manhattan College, during her lifetime, but her story is still often overshadowed by her husband’s (Suggs 2006). Her own dedication to social justice arose when she was not allowed to student teach in the Ohio public schools, because despite the fact that the students were integrated, the faculty remained all white (Crawford 2007). It was this instance that spurred King into a life dedicated to social justice, both with and without her husband.

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Rent: Humanizing the LGBT+ Community

Authored by Allison Payne

One side of the Rent program during its off-Broadway run with the New York Theatre Workshop. Photo courtesy of Marymount Manhattan College.

When Jonathan Larson’s musical Rent debuted in the 1990s, the small show quickly grew in popularity. Rent started as seven performances in late 1994 that led to an extended off-Broadway run, all presented by the New York Theatre Workshop (Heredia and Span 1996). It then spent over 5,000 performances between 1996 and 2008 at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater, telling its story of a diverse group of friends trying to live their lives while dealing with the horrors of AIDS (Grode 2015, 253). 

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August Wilson and the Amplification of Black Stories on Broadway

Authored by Roseanne Pensabene

Brown, Mary E. (2020), Collage of Playbills (l-r), Seven Guitars, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Jitney, Fences, The Piano Lesson, and Two Trains Running, all written by August Wilson. From the Harris Papers archive, Marymount Manhattan College, Manhattan, New York. Courtesy of Mary E. Brown.

August Wilson was a wildly lauded playwright in the 1970s and 80s, and used his abilities to share the stories of the struggles African Americans faced and the responsibility to make sure those voices were heard and that they had a place in the theater. Stories of Black Americans were told by Caucasians, which is problematic in of itself, as indicated in Wolfe (1998) “No people can gain authenticity by either accepting others’ judgment of them or looking to others for approval” (4). Wilson exhibited the Vincentian value of respect by giving a platform and awareness to struggles that were so often hidden and ignored (St. John’s University 2017). He also made sure to give opportunities to African Americans within the theater community with the creation of Pittsburgh’s Black Horizons Theater.    

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Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking: A Story of Grief and Compassion

Authored by Elizabeth Hodges

This is an autographed poster advertising the 2007 play The Year of Magical Thinking starring Vanessa Redgrave. The autographers include Vanessa Redgrave, director David Hare, and Joan Didion (Autographed poster of The Year of Magical Thinking 2007).

“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends. The question of self-pity” (Didion 2007a, 3). In December of 2003, Quintana Roo Dunne, daughter of writers Joan Didion and John Dunne, fell into septic shock after contracting pneumonia. On December 31, 2003, after visiting their daughter in New York’s Beth Israel North Hospital, Didion and Dunne sat down to dinner (Didion 2007a, 6-7). Shortly after they began eating, Dunne suffered from a major heart attack and died. Dunne’s death marked the beginning of a year that would change Joan Didion’s life. After a number of traumatic hospitalizations in 2004, Quintana developed acute pancreatitis and died August 26, 2005 (Meter 2005).

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Tartuffe: A Hypocritical Holy Man

Authored by Kelly Blabolil

Covers of programs of production for Tartuffe that were found in a folder of the William Harris papers at Marymount Manhattan College.

Tartuffe by Molière was originally written in French and first performed on May 12, 1664. It was performed at Palace of Versailles in France. Being that it was Molière’s most famous theatrical comedy, it was adapted and performed all over the world throughout the last four centuries. 

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Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Complicated Depiction of Southeast Asian Peoples and Culture

Authored by Kaitlyn Jeffries

Sandy Wilson’s review of the West End revisal of The King and I, printed in Plays and Players, Vol. 21, No. 3, December 1973 issue. Featured in the photograph printed in the article, Peter Wyngarde and Sally Ann Howes performing “Shall We Dance.”

The King and I is a musical theatre play, with music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II that originally premiered on Broadway at St. James Theatre. Mongkut, King of Siam (now Thailand), hired a British tutor, Mrs. Anna Leonowens to teach his children English. A widow, Anna tutors while simultaneously attempting to humanize their cultural difference and broaden their world-view beyond Siam. Anna endeavors to remove Siam’s perceived barbaric image by assimilating the family into Western culture and customs. Anna and Mongkut engage in a short lived romance, and after subsequent family turmoil with one of the King’s many wives, Anna wants to leave Siam. On his deathbed, Mongkut asks Anna to watch over his son, Chulalongkorn, as he begins his rule.

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Mustapha Matura: A Pioneer of Post-Colonial Black Theatre Arts

Authored by Jasmine Pacheco

(a newspaper clipping of William Harris’ weekly column “OFF AND ON” where he examines the plays both off and on broadway. The image and first review are from the play “Rum and Coca-cola” by Mustapha Matura”.)

 This newspaper clipping of two men, one of which was holding a guitar quickly catches the eye due to the overtones of potential Blackface. However, after reading William Harris’ review, I discovered the work of Trinidadian playwright Mustapha Matura who used his experiences to craft powerful political commentaries. Matura first began writing and directing plays in London often tackling the ways Black people have been mistreated and abused throughout the Caribbean and the UK.

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Art Buchwald’s Sheep on the Runway: A Columnist’s Debut as a Playwright

Authored by Patricia Monaghan

This folder contains a unique selection of clippings compiled by the late William Harris, a drama and dance critic who assembled a sizable collection of theater memorabilia. The contents of the folder consist of reviews and articles, as well as a half-page advertisement, of Art Buchwald’s debut play, Sheep on the Runway. The play was a comedy directed by Gene Saks at the Helen Hayes Theatre on West 46th Street in Manhattan.

As “the most widely published American journalistic humorist of the second half of the 20th century,” Art Buchwald was a writer unlike any other (Biography Reference Bank 2007). Buchwald spent the majority of his career writing a satirical column that, at one time, was syndicated in 550 newspapers (Nilsen 1996, 80). His contributions to journalism earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1982 (Folkenflik 2007).

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