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Cleveland Play House Archives Get New Home at Case Western Reserve University

Posted March 9, 2012 in Press Releases

The Kelvin Smith Library at Case Western Reserve University has acquired over 1,000 boxes of materials belonging to Cleveland Play House. Founded in 1915, Cleveland Play House is America’s first professional regional theatre. The collection includes letters, manuscripts, research documents, notes, legal and financial records, printed materials, photographs, video and audio tapes, CDs and DVDs, posters and flyers, and artifacts, dating from the formation of CPH in 1915 to present day. A program and reception announcing the new home of the CPH archives collection will take place at the Kelvin Smith Library on Monday, March 26, 2012 at 4:00pm, where people can view a selection of items. For more information call KSL administration at (216) 368-2992.

"When one surveys the existing and available archival record of professional theatre, it would hard to find a comparable collection,” said Arnold Hirshon, Associate Provost & University Librarian. “The Cleveland Play House archives are an unparalleled resource for researchers studying the emergence and development of the American regional theatre movement, as well as a treasure trove of information about the general and cultural history of Cleveland."

Some key items in the archive donated from CPH include:

* Thousands of letters to artistic directors, many from playwrights, including Tennessee Williams and George Bernard Shaw, and scripts with director notations
* Original programs, original artwork posters, stage drawings and costume sketches
* The complete records of the organization, including board minutes, subscriber ledgers, charitable gifts, and notes and correspondence detailing productions
* Photographs (including some negatives) of actors and artists such as Helen Hayes, Joel Grey, Margaret Hamilton and Paul Newman

"This significant collection will provide our faculty and students with access to a rich historical record of the longest-running professional theater in the United States," said Cyrus C. Taylor, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Housing the Cleveland Play House's archives will open new avenues for research and scholarship. It will also deepen our long-standing partnership, which already includes our nationally recognized Master of Fine Arts acting program, as well as undergraduate internship opportunities that develop valuable career experience."

In addition to programs and production photos, the Cleveland Play House archives are filled with letters from famed playwrights, personal memos, financial records, correspondence between board members and local politicians and businesses, press clippings from defunct newspapers, and a wealth of other items that chart the theatre’s development since its founding in 1915.

“The educational and humanistic value of the Cleveland Play House archives is simply astounding,” raves Jeffrey Ullom, Assistant Professor of Theater, who is currently writing a book which centers on the past, present and future of the CPH. “Not only does it detail the artistic achievements of Ohio’s most respected theatre, but its documents and images allow for the people of Ohio to study its own cultural, social, and economic past.”

“We’re very pleased that our collection has a new home with the university, with whom CPH has had an institutional partnership since the 1930s,” says Kevin Moore, managing director of Cleveland Play House. “There’s almost a sense of providence that our theater history will be preserved there.”

Jill Tatem, the university archivist
, will oversee the cataloging and organization. The remarkable collection will be available to researchers and the public as it is processed, which Tatem estimates will take at least two years. Inquiries can be directed After the collection is organized and finding aids are created, Kelvin Smith Library will be working to digitize portions of the collection to make the contents available internationally on the web.

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