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University of Virginia Library Exhibition to Celebrate American Theatre

Email article to a friend June 27, 2002

WHO: Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia

WHAT: Exhibition "In the Brilliancy of the Footlights: Creating America’s Theatre"

WHEN: June 21 through Oct. 26, 2002

WHERE: McGregor Room, Special Collections, Alderman Library

"Out in the brilliancy of the footlights—filling the attention of perhaps a crowded audience, and making many a breath and pulse swell and rise—O’ so much passion and imparted life!" -- Walt Whitman

The University of Virginia Library exhibition "In the Brilliancy of the Footlights: Creating America’s Theatre" celebrates the American stage – its playwrights and plays, and that creative talent that transforms words into living theatre. A testament to American cultural heritage, the items assembled for the exhibition capture the excitement and dynamism of more than two centuries of American theatre history. The exhibition, on display through Oct. 26, takes visitors simultaneously behind the scenes and into the limelight.

"In the Brilliancy of the Footlights: Creating America’s Theatre" begins by exploring the relationship between Colonial American theatre and the British theatrical tradition. On display are Shakespeare’s second folio (1632) and the plays of Ben Jonson, David Garrick and Oliver Goldsmith. From these roots, the exhibition traces the first tentative steps of American theatre during the 18th century.

According to exhibition curator Margaret Hrabe, the 19th century saw the
development of a uniquely American theatre tradition, with many plays and characters based on popular fiction of the period. Exemplifying this, the exhibition displays theatre tickets and playbills announcing various performances of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The 1852 novel about the evils of slavery not only impacted literature and politics, but also when translated to the stage became one of the longest running shows in the history of American theatre, playing across the country in various incarnations for more than 75 years.

The 20th century saw Eugene O’Neill emerge as a major American playwright. On display is the manuscript of Beyond the Horizon, O’Neill’s first play to be produced on Broadway. Other featured 20th century playwrights include Tennessee Williams (and his manuscript for The Glass Menagerie), Lillian Hellman, Arthur Miller, Langston Hughes and Sam Shepard. In addition to these luminaries, the exhibition brings to light plays of Mark Twain, William Faulkner, John Dos Passos, Robert Frost and Peter Taylor, all of whom experimented with playwriting before finding their niches in other literary genres.

Reaching beyond Broadway, the exhibition encompasses theatre criticism, drama at the University of Virginia and regional theatre in Virginia. The stage of the exhibition is set through manuscripts, plays, photographs, letters, playbills and programs.

"In the Brilliancy of the Footlights: Creating America’s Theatre" is on display in the McGregor Room of Alderman Library Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Inquiries are advised for holiday and summer schedules. For more information, call (434) 243-8969. The exhibition may be viewed online at www.lib.virginia.edu/exhibits/theatre.

 

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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