The Lucille Lortel papers include correspondence, production files, scripts, programs, production photographs, personal and family photographs, organization files, clippings, ephemera and scrapbooks. The photographs in her collection fill 26 boxes (10.7 linear feet) and document all aspects of her personal and professional life.
Biographical/historical: Lucille Lortel (1900-1999) began her theatrical career as a performer, eventually turned producer, founded the White Barn Theatre in Westport, Connecticut, acquired the Theatre dy Lys in Greenwich Village, and became a seminal force in the Off-Broadway movement. Born Lucille Wadler in New York City on December 16, 1900, Lucille Lortel studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York and with Arnold Korff in Europe. She had her first notable role in the Theatre Guild's production of Shaw's Caesar AND Cleopatra with Helen Hayes in 1925. Among her motion pictures was the early talking film The Man Who Laughed Last (1929) opposite Sessue Hayakawa. Shortly after marrying wealthy industrialist Louis Schweitzer in 1931, Lortel retired from acting. In 1947, on the grounds of her Westport home, she established the White Barn Theatre, a summer theater which continues to operate. In 1955 Schweitzer purchased the Theatre de Lys for his wife, whose production of The Threepenny Opera ran there for almost seven years. In 1956 Lortel initiated the American National Theatre and Academy (ANTA) Matinee Series, which presented plays at her theater for twenty years. Lortel produced more than 500 shows on Broadway, Off-Broadway, at the Library of Congress, at her White Barn Theatre, and elsewhere. The Theatre de Lys was renamed the Lucille Lortel Theatre in 1981. Lucille Lortel died on April 4, 1999, at the age of 98.