The Actor's Workshop and Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center records contain the administrative and production records of the two companies, and document the creative output and operational activities of directors Jules Irving and Herbert Blau, and manager Alan Mandell. The Actor's Workshop was a San Francisco-based professional theater company, founded by Jules Irving and Herbert Blau that presented experimental and classic productions from 1952 to 1966. In 1965, Irving and Blau became the artistic directors for The Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center, a fledgling theater company with the goal of presenting plays of social and emotional significance in a repertory format. Longtime collaborator and theater manager Alan Mandell accompanied Blau and Irving to the Repertory Theatre. This collection contains both companies' administrative files, correspondence, photographs, play critiques relating to the companies' play selection process, production files, publicity materials, and set and costume designs. Additionally, the collection houses the Jules Irving papers, which contain files concerning his involvement in other companies and a collection of scripts.This collection contains both companies' administrative files, correspondence, photographs, play critiques relating to the companies' play selection process, production files, publicity materials, and set and costume designs. Additionally, the collection houses the Jules Irving papers, which contain files concerning his involvement in other companies and a collection of scripts.
Biographical/historical: Actor's Workshop
The Actor's Workshop (also known as the San Francisco Actor's Workshop) was a professional theater company established in 1952 by San Francisco State University professors Jules Irving (1925-1979) and Herbert Blau (1926-2013) and their respective wives, Priscilla Pointer (born 1924) and Beatrice Manley (1921-2002). The company provided a forum for actors to hone their craft by performing challenging plays, while providing San Francisco audiences with avant-garde, as well as more traditional, theatrical productions.
Initially, the Actor's Workshop was run and staffed by volunteers, with Irving, Blau, and later Robert Symonds directing the productions and Alan Mandell serving as business manager. The troupe grew from giving small invitation-only events in 1952 to producing plays simultaneously at the 630-seat Marines Memorial Theater and the 140-seat Encore Theater by 1959. Though most of the company's productions were held in San Francisco playhouses, in 1957 they brought their acclaimed production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot to San Quentin Prison. In 1959, they also performed Waiting for Godot at the Brussels World's Fair and the York Playhouse in New York.
The company specialized in contemporary dramas, such as Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Jean Genet's The Balcony, while also producing standard repertory plays, including Aristophanes' Lysistrata and Shakespeare's King Lear, Twelfth Night, and The Taming of the Shrew.
The Actor's Workshop was the first West Coast theater to sign an Equity "Off-Broadway" contract. The company secured funding from the Ford Foundation's "Program for Playwrights" in 1959, which allowed the group to pay staff members and attract established actors. Blau and Irving left the Actor's Workshop in 1965 to co-direct the newly established Repertory Theater of Lincoln Center in New York City. Financial problems forced the Actor's Workshop to disband in 1966.
Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center
The Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center (hereafter referred to as Repertory Theatre), housed at the ANTA-Washington Square Theater and ultimately the Vivian Beaumont Theater, was a theater company founded with the goal of presenting plays of social and emotional significance in a repertory format. The company was conceived in 1960 as an independent, non-profit theater and was recognized as the newly-conceived Lincoln Center's constituent in the dramatic arts. Robert Whitehead and Elia Kazan were appointed the first producing directors. In 1962, a training program for actors was instituted under the supervision of Robert Lewis.
Although the Vivian Beaumont Theatre did not officially open until the summer of 1965, Repertory Theatre proceeded with its plans for a 1963-1964 season. A temporary facility, the ANTA-Washington Square Theatre was erected at 40 West 4th Street on land donated by New York University. The temporary theater had a similar seating plan and stage design to the proposed Vivian Beaumont theater, allowing both the artists and subscribers to experience continuity after the move. Arthur Miller's After the Fall was their inaugural production.
In January of 1965, Jules Irving and Herbert Blau were appointed directors of Repertory Theatre and moved directly into offices in the new Vivian Beaumont Theater, bringing with them Actor's Workshop colleagues Alan Mandell, Cheri Landry, and others. In the ensuing reorganization, a workshop program was begun for the company and included classes in mime under Carlo Mazzone-Clemeni and voice coaching by Henry Jacobi.
During its run, the theater produced both classics such as The Miser (1969) and new, groundbreaking works such as The Disintegration of James Cherry (1970). Other notable productions include The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1966) and In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1969).
In February 1966, a supporting membership group, The Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center Guild, was formed to create a broad-based support for the Theater and to disseminate information to the public.
Herbert Blau resigned as co-director of Repertory Theatre in 1967, with Irving continuing as the sole director. The company opened the smaller, experimental Forum Theater in the fall of 1967, with the presentation of Mayo Simon's two new one-act plays, Walking to Waldheim and Happiness.
Repertory Theatre continued its program of outreach, launching a High School Program as well as a generous student ticket policy. In the 1970s, the company encountered financial difficulties, primarily due to a decrease in giving and the rising costs of operating the Vivian Beaumont Theater. Ideas were floated for sharing the space during the dark part of their season, bringing in more outside groups, and even for presenting popular musicals instead of more experimental fare.
At the Repertory Theatre's November 1972 board meeting, Jules Irving submitted his formal resignation, stating that he wished to be relieved of his duties at the close of the 1972-1973 season. The Forum season was to be curtailed due to financial difficulties. The board created a special committee to recommend an administrative and artistic reorganization of the theater, but ultimately, the Repertory Theatre played its final performances in 1973.
Content: The Actor's Workshop and Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center records contain the administrative and production records of the two companies, and document the creative output and operational activities of directors Jules Irving and Herbert Blau, and manager Alan Mandell.
The Actor's Workshop records contain administrative files; correspondence; production records, publicity files, and set and costume designs that document the group's performances; and scripts and play critiques relating to the company's play selection process. These records span from the formation of the Actor's Workshop in 1952 to the departure of Irving, Blau, and Mandell in 1965.
The Jules Irving papers document some of Irving's activities outside of his official roles at the Actor's Workshop and Repertory Theatre. The series consists of a small run of personal files that include educational documents, correspondence with outside theatre groups, speeches and writings, photographs, and other miscellany; papers relating to the San Francisco Children's Theater; and a script collection.
The Repertory Theatre of Lincoln Center records hold administrative files, correspondence, fundraising documents, High School Program materials, production files, and publicity materials. These records had been partially processed more than once in the past. All efforts were made to retain original order while working around the initial processing. This is especially evident in the correspondence series, where a loose date arrangement as well as a subject arrangement had been created out of the original alphabetical correspondence run.
Original catalogue numbers (starting with preface 8-MWEZ + n.c. or MWEZ + n.c.) appear as notes in the container list.