Primary Sources are all Around Us: Theatre Playbills Tell Many Stories
Posted January 23, 2013on:
My collection of playbills began in the late 60’s when my high school English teacher introduced us to Shakespeare and took us to plays. We saw Richard Burton as Hamlet in the 1964 movie and plays at area colleges. I loved the St. Mary’s University Theater department’s performance of Sheridan’s The Rivals and put the program the fan-shaped program trimmed with doilies in my scrapbook.When I was a college student I attended Winona State University theatre department productions, had a very small role in the controversial St. Mary’s production of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade and ushered at many others.
My collection grew to include programs for countless plays I enjoyed at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, 70’s era musical such as Hair and Godspell in Chicago, Winona Summer Theater, Lacrosse Community Theatre, and even programs for plays I co-redirected Caledonia High School. Among these treasures are programs for The Man Who Came To Dinner, The Skin of our Teeth, Arsenic and Old Lace, and You Can’t Take it With You. It’s fun to remember the students; it’s even more fun when I see them at a theater event.
Playbills from the 1990s bring back memories many trips Minneapolis to see Broadway touring productions of musicals such as Showboat at the Ordway, Cats at Northrup Auditorium, In Coya’s House at St. Paul’s History Theater, or dinner shows at The Chanhassen Dinner Theater. Other programs evoke memories of going to the Milwaukee Rep or theaters in other cities. A huge part of the collection is over 50 programs from Lanesboro’s Commonweal Theatre.
Some surprises. Have I really seen The Fantasticks 5 or 6 times? I was convinced I had only seen twice before seeing the Great River Shakespeare Festival’s production. I can’t remember a thing about the Merry Wives of Windsor, but I apparently saw it at the Guthrie many years ago.
Lasting connections. The box has several playbills from Winona Community Theatre productions from the late 1980’s – early 1990’s. I was on the theatre board and was a stage manager for a couple. Some of the people I work with as a volunteer for the Great River Shakespeare people are people I met through Community theatre. My expanding collection of Great River Shakespeare Festival playbills documents the festival’s history, actors, staff and my involvement as a Friend of Will.
Regrettably, I’ve tossed some programs from the past few years. Those hundreds of playbills I kept tell stories about of my love of the theatre, places I’ve been, plays I’ve enjoyed, people I’ve met. They tell the stories of theatres, the people who make them happen and for many, the community and regions strong support for the arts. It’s impossible to name a favorite in this collection of treasures; each tells a story!
What have you collected? Could you use your collection to make a personal primary source display?
How can I use primary resources in the media center and classroom or to support Common Core Standards?
Teaching Digital Media Literacy in the Content Areas: Using Primary Sources