The Literature & Fiction Department’s Theater Program Collection Deserves a Standing O! | Los Angeles Public Library
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The Literature & Fiction Department’s Theater Program Collection Deserves a Standing O!

Christa Deitrick, Librarian, Literature & Fiction Department,
Standing Ovation

The Literature & Fiction Department of the Central Library has been collecting theater programs since the late 19th century.  During the course of those 100-plus years, we have managed to amass quite a collection.  So we are very pleased to announce that a searchable database of these items has just been added to the LAPL web site.

The collection contains both local and national programs, from productions performed in the most venerated theaters (think the Palace in New York or the Pantages in Hollywood) to weensy makeshift venues housed in cafes, parks and living rooms.

Although thus far only a part of the collection has been entered into the database, many gems have already emerged.  Let’s take a look at a few of them, shall we?

• This is one of the collection’s oldest programs.  It harks back to an 1871 production of She Stoops to Conquer at the California Theatre in San Francisco, which was sadly destroyed (the theater, not the program) in the 1906 earthquake.

• This 1926 production was staged at the old Friday Morning Club Building, which still stands on South Figueroa Street in downtown L.A.  You’ll notice that it starred Lionel Barrymore (“in his greatest New York success!”) and lists, under “Additional Characters,” a young unknown by the name of Clark Gable.

• The great thing about this one is that it starred Tony Randall and Jack Klugman—indeed, the entire cast of the play is culled from the TV show.  It was apparently meant as a fond farewell, as this production was staged several months after the final episode of the TV series aired in 1975.


• Above, on the left is a program from Jeff Goldblum’s 2012 run at the Ahmanson Theatre in Seminar.  And on the right is a 1975 flyer featuring a slightly lesser known theater, play and actor.

The database is searchable by year, venue, title, author and keyword so it’s fun and easy to dive in and get a sense of what we’ve got.  From our home page, just click on Collections & Resources, then check the box marked “LAPL Catalog, Photos & Indexes.”  The indexes are listed alphabetically, so jump or scroll down to T for Theater Program Collection.  Or you can just click here!

To date, the local programs have been entered up to 1982, amounting to a little over 11,000 items (including no fewer than 52 productions of Hamlet alone!).  Who knows what that figure will be by the time we crack the 21st century?  In the meantime, stay tuned for more updates and highlights from this fabulous collection.

Recommended read for theater enthusiastsColleen Dewhurst: her Autobiography written with and completed by Tom Viola.

Published six years after her untimely death, but written in her own earthy, no-nonsense voice, one of the first ladies of the American theater looks back on her incredible career.  Ms. Dewhurst excelled in every acting media, from her legendary performance as Josie Hogan in Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten (for which she won a Tony and an Emmy), to her unforgettable cameo appearance as Diane Keaton’s mother in Annie Hall, to her turn as Candice Bergen’s mother Avery Brown on TV’s Murphy Brown (for which she won two Emmys).  She was married to actor George C. Scott (twice!), served as President of the Actors’ Equity Association, and counted among her many friends some of the great talents of her day.  A spirited, moving and worthwhile read that celebrates both the theater and the acting life.