Black Power on Broadway

Authored by Alexis Wallace

Black Power in Broadway

The photo was taken by Martha Swope and the article was written on January 4, 1982 in New York, NY.

Dreamgirls was a Broadway show that premiered on December 20, 1981. In 1982, the show would go on to earn 13 nominations, winning six of them. The original cast starred Loretta Devine, Jennifer Holliday, Sheryll Lee Ralph and Cleavant Derricks. (Dekic and Cox 2013). The musical, which takes many elements of the stardom of the Supremes, is much more than just catchy tunes.

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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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New York Pride of the Past

Watermarked image of a written letter on a sheet of paper and business card admitting William Bordeau to the National Gay Alliance as a Charter Member

Now known as the National LGBTQ Task Force, the image above is of a handwritten note welcoming Bill Bordeau into the National Gay Task Force, and a business card sized membership card.

Authored by Kathleen Daly

At a time when there was a great deal of political and cultural turmoil there was one local New York City man who was a vocal activist for gay rights. Affiliation of any kind with a group like the National Gay Task Force was polarizing for some, especially when this was a time when the American Psychiatric Association, or APA, still had homosexuality classified as a mental illness. In the publication of the original Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM, in 1952, as well as in the second version, “individuals were labeled sick because they did not fit in, not necessarily because they felt afflicted, in pain, or under any kind of mental stress” (Dunn 2017, 183). The stigma that homosexuals had to live under was codified under the guidelines of mental health diagnoses and it took a great deal of fighting back from many groups inside the APA, and a few outside as well, to get those definitions removed finally in late 1973.  Other legal definitions and laws changing, such as the case of 1964’s Civil Rights Act and the fallout within the homosexual community (Bruce 2016, 46-47) gave rise to many people within it wishing to take further action. Continue reading

Back on Their Feet: The Italian Welfare League and the Ragazzi

Authored by Kyle Randall

A boy with worn features and wrinkles under his eyes that do not belong on a teenager is posed smoking before the photographer.
A young Ragazzi smoking to try to curb his hunger in the aftermath of World War II


            Like most of the world, Italy suffered greatly in the first half of the 20th century, as a result of the two World Wars and the Great Depression devastating most developed nations. World War I caused distrust amongst many first world nations, and brought about a massive decrease in trade across the globe. “These policies took several forms such as import tariffs, currency control and quota restrictions” (Perri and Quadrini 2000, 4). The collapse of the economy and subsequent worldwide political strife made way for conflicts that would spark the second World War, sowing even greater turmoil and tragedy into an already struggling nation. After World War II came to a close, Italy’s infrastructure suffered massive damage, and its economy was in shambles.  Thousands of children were left homeless and orphaned.  While Italy would eventually recover, the initial years were difficult. “In the aftermath of World War II, Italy and France like the other European belligerents experienced persistent, rapid, disruptive inflation” (Casella and Eichengreen 1991, 1). With the country as unstable as it was, it was no wonder why the nation had to turn to outside help to care for their orphans. 

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Androcles and the Lion: How Theater Made an Identity for the Deaf

Authored by Kylie Feiring

Androcles and the Lion program
Marymount Manhattan College and St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf, Androcles and the Lion, 1971, Marymount Manhattan College, Collection #009, Box 2.

In 1971, Marymount Manhattan College and the St. Francis de Sales School for the Deaf united forces to present “Androcles and the Lion,” written by Aurand Harris and adapted by Dorothy Dodd. Harris’ plays for children are remarkable, as he had a deep and real understanding of children’s interests and concerns, what they find funny, and what they find important (McCaslin 1984, 115).

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