Eunice Stoddard was a stage actress and a member of the Group Theatre. The papers consist of correspondence, opening night messages, photographs, programs, scripts, sides, and clippings from productions in which she participated.
Biographical/historical: An actress and dancer, Eunice Stoddard was an original member of the Group Theatre, a company formed in 1931 by Harold Clurman, Lee Strasberg and Cheryl Crawford, and dedicated to producing Broadway plays exploring social and moral issues, and to developing acting techniques that emphasized emotional realism and psychological depth.
Stoddard came from an affluent and culturally connected New York family. After graduating from the Brearly School in 1925, she was sent to Europe for several years, where she studied acting, dancing and music, and met Stanislavsky. Stoddard considered a career in dance, and staged a number of dance pageants upon returning to the States, but soon enrolled in the American Laboratory Theatre, an innovative acting school based on the principles of the Moscow Art Theatre and led by Richard Boleslavsky and Maria Ouspenskya. There Eunice met Clurman and Strasberg, who had enrolled in the directing program, and Stella Adler, who was an acting student.
The American Laboratory Theatre foundered in 1928, but Stoddard was already winning parts in Broadway productions, as a result of her solid training and her classic blonde ingenue looks. She then appeared in Red Rust, produced by the Theatre Guild Studio, which was led by Clurman and Strasberg. During the 1930 season, she was cast in a major Guild production of A Month in the Country, and appeared in the Broadway productions of Samuel Ruskin Golden's Puppet Show and Gretchen Damrosch's The Life Line. In the summer of 1931, she was invited to join the newly formed Group Theatre in Connecticut to rehearse and prepare their first production, Paul Green's The House of Connelly.
Stoddard had roles in all of the Group's productions from 1931-1933, and most of them in 1934 and 1935, appearing in such seminal works as Men in White, Waiting for Lefty and Till the Day I Die. By this time she had married the architect Julian Whittlesey, and was developing a life outside the Group Theatre. She also was becoming unhappy that she was consigned to lesser parts. Yet she was devoted to the ideals of the Group, and kept an association with the Company as late as 1938, when she appeared in Casey Jones. When the Group Theatre disbanded, Stoddard left the theater, going on to work in radio and to collaborate with her husband in underwater and aerial photography. In 1972, she published her first book, Symbols and Legends in Western Art: A Museum Guide (New York: Scribner, 1972).
In an interview with Wendy Smith for her book about the Group Theatre, Real Life Drama (New York: Knopf, 1990), Stoddard explained her devotion to the Group: "Everybody had their frustrations. I stayed because it was more interesting theatre than anywhere else. Rehearsals were always so exciting: the whole analysis of the play, of the parts, of what the play was saying in terms of our era, was just so much more stimulating than anything you'd ever get on Broadway. You didn't want to leave that for what you knew you'd be getting outside, which might satisfy your ego as an actress but not necessarily create very interesting theatre."
Content: The Eunice Stoddard Papers document her brief career in dance from 1926 to 1928 and her longer career in the theater from 1926 to 1938. The papers consist of correspondence, opening night messages, programs, clippings, a small number of photographs, and playscripts and sides marked in her own hand with acting and staging notes. There are also examples of various research sources and several styles of choreographic notation that Stoddard studied and used to stage dance pageants.
The papers are divided into series representing the years before and during her membership in the Group Theatre, and into sub-series documenting individual productions. Productions from 1928 to 1934, comprising the three years before and the three years after she joined the Group Theatre, form the bulk of the collection. Each production sub-series typically includes a script or side, opening night telegrams and messages from fellow cast members, family members, and acting teachers, a program, and a generous selection of reviews from New York and out-of town newspapers. Among the clippings are newspaper photographs of Stoddard in productions in which she had major roles: Revolt (Box 2, Folders 9-10), Meet the Prince (Box 2, Folder 14), Re-Born (Box 2, Folder 20), A Month in the Country (Box 2, Folders 36-37), The Life Line (Box 3, Folders 11-12) and The House of Connelly (Box 3, Folder 20).
Although there is but one letter from each, notable correspondents include Richard Boleslavsky (Box 1, Folder 32), and Group Theatre members Cheryl Crawford, Bobby Lewis, and Harold Clurman (Box 1, Folders 2-4). Founding members of the Group Theatre can be identified in a photograph depicting the company seated on the grounds of Brookfield Center in Connecticut during the summer of 1931, with each person identified on the back of the photograph (Box 1, Folder 8).
Several playscripts of productions not seen on Broadway, mostly with the playwright unidentified, form the last series of papers.