Part of Town:
Upper West Side
The Billy Rose Theatre Division is one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive archives devoted to the theatrical arts. Approximately 10 million items illuminate virtually every type of performance, from street corner to stage to studio, and include drama and musical theatre, film, television, radio, and popular entertainment (circus, magic, vaudeville, and puppetry).
A researcher can examine a 1767 program for a performance of Romeo and Juliet in Philadelphia, study Katharine Hepburn’s personal papers, review Elia KazanÕs working script and notes for the original production of A Streetcar Named Desire, examine posters for Harry Houdini’s performances, read a script for an episode of Captain Kangaroo, view set designs for the original production of Guys & Dolls and costume designs for the Ziegfeld Follies, analyze a videotape of the original production of A Chorus Line, and find rich subject files and scrapbooks that document the most popular and obscure performances from across the centuries.
While it houses an extraordinary array of traditional published books and journals, the division’s strength and uniqueness lie in its unparalleled collection of archival collections of personal papers and organizational records, scrapbooks, photographs, posters, programs, reviews, and scripts, as well as its pioneering efforts to document live theatre through the Theatre on Film and Tape (TOFT) Archive. Among other highlights of the collection are the papers of Betty Comden, Lillian Gish, Hal Prince, Richard Rodgers, and Clifford Odets; records from the New York Shakespeare Festival and Joe Papp, and from the Federal Theatre Project; original designs from Al Hirschfeld, Jo Mielziner, Boris Aronson,and Patricia Zipprodt; photograph archives from White Studios, Vandamm Studio, Friedman-Abeles, and Martha Swope; more than 7,000 titles in the TOFT Archive; more than 200,000 individual photograph files; thousands of posters, and more than 2,500 feet of clippings and programs files.