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Interview with Norton Owen, September 12, 15, and 19, 2014

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Interview with Norton Owen, September 12, 15, and 19, 2014
Owen, Norton (Interviewee)
Baldwin, Neil, 1947- (Interviewer)

Dance Oral History Project

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2014-09-12
Date Created: 2014-09-15
Date Created: 2014-09-19
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZMT 3-3327
Owen, Norton
Cichetti, Michael
Shawn, Ted, 1891-1972
Meeker, Jess
Thompson, Liz (Elizabeth Lauter)
Lindquist, John
Walker, Norman
Kriegsman, Sali Ann
Overlees, Frank, 1913-1985
Jacob's Pillow
Denishawn Dancers
Erick Hawkins Dance Company
José Limón Dance Company
José Limón Dance Foundation
National Museum of Dance (U.S.)
Dance Heritage Coalition
Doris Duke Foundation
Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers
Adelphi University
Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival
Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival -- Management
Performing arts -- Management
Archives -- Management
Dance festivals -- Management
Oral histories
Bibliographic history: Title supplied by cataloger.
Venue: Recorded for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts September 12, 15, and 19, 2014 New York (N.Y.)
Funding: The creation and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.
Physical Description
Born digital
Extent: 3 audio files (approximately 4 hr., 48 min.) : digital, stereo + transcript (161 leaves)
Streaming file 1, September 12, 2014 (approximately one hour and 36 minutes). Norton Owen speaks with Neil Baldwin about his childhood in Birmingham, Alabama, including his exposure to music and cotillion dance; meeting June Cunniff and his administrative work with the Birmingham Civic Ballet [merged with Ballet Alabama and University of Alabama at Birmingham Ballet to form the Alabama Ballet in 1981]; acting in high school theater productions; his reasons for attending Adelphi University; his involvement with Adelphi's performing arts program under the direction of Norman Walker and Jacques Burdick; his decision to major in theater management and his interest in backstage work; visiting Michael Cichetti at Jacob's Pillow in 1975; reflections on other personal connections to Jacob's Pillow from his early life, including Frank Overlees, a former member of Ted Shawn's Men Dancers; briefly, Cichetti's performance in Walker's Gloria at the Ted Shawn Theatre at Jacob's Pillow in 1975; his experience as a scholarship student at Jacob's Pillow in the summer of 1976 including his backstage work; post-graduate work in New York, including as an administrative assistant to Walker; briefly, being a supernumerary with the Metropolitan Opera. Streaming file 2, September 15, 2014 (approximately one hour and 38 minutes). Norton Owen speaks with Neil Baldwin about attending Jacob's Pillow [Dance Festival] in the summer of 1976; the legacy of Ted Shawn at Jacob's Pillow, especially in terms of programming; briefly, dancing in Norman Walker's Echoes from the tempest (1976); more on Shawn, including his programming for the Festival, his views on dance, and the curriculum design for Jacob's Pillow; Owen's increasing awareness of the Pillow's history, in particular, his hearing firsthand accounts from Jess Meeker; working at the Pillow as a box office assistant and creating a costume exhibition to accompany a program of Denishawn works [works originating with the Denishawn Dancers and its associated schools], in the summer of 1977; meeting Craig Palmer and Palmer's influence on Owen; working as a booking manager for the Erick Hawkins Dance Company; Owen's work with Palmer as a marketing assistant; briefly, his additional duties as house manager and author of performance programs; briefly, his publicity work in connection with introducing Liz Thompson, Norman Walker's successor as Jacob's Pillow director; briefly, working as a freelance publicist, and as a personal assistant for Teresa Stratas; being Festival Fund Director for both the Pillow and the Berkshire Theatre Festival under a NEA [National Endowment for the Arts] grant; the transition period under Thompson's new leadership in the early 1980s; his work as Director of Education Programs at the Pillow while simultaneously pursuing his Masters degree in arts administration at Columbia University; more on his work as Director of Education Programs; splitting his time between New York City and Beckett [Massachusetts]; the project he created in the 1980s to record Meeker's playing of the original scores for silent films of Shawn's dances; Owen's personal interest in history and archival guardianship prior to his becoming the Pillow's Director of Preservation; his overseeing a documentary about a reunion of Ted Shawn's Men Dancers, entitled The men who danced (1982). Streaming file, September 19, 2014 (approximately one hour and 34 minutes). Norton Owen speaks with Neil Baldwin about his roles as institute director and development director for the José Limón Dance Foundation in 1988; more on the [José] Limón Dance Company; his projects to promote the Limón Institute Archives; his contributions to José Limón: an unfinished memoir (1999, Wesleyan press); processing material in the Limón Institute Archives; briefly, his direction of the Limón summer intensive courses in the late 1980s to the early 1990s; returning to Jacob's Pillow as Director of Preservation, under Sam Miller, the executive director; the condition and locations of the Pillow's archives at that time; his role as artistic adviser to Ted Shawn's centennial celebration performances at the Joyce Theater [in New York City]; the centennial show's international tour, including anecdotes about the reception of Shawn's solo, Mevlevi dervish (1929), and Limón's The unsung (1970), while on tour in Novosibirsk; thoughts on being Director of Preservation; Marge Champion's gift of Blake's Barn to the Pillow; briefly, creating the first exhibition at Blake's Barn, the photography of Philip Trager and John Lindquist; his first freelance exhibition on Ted Shawn, at the National Museum of Dance; subsequent exhibitions at the Museum, which he curated; his curatorial style; an anecdote about his first visit to Jacob's Pillow and seeing Lindquist's dance photography; Owen's use of the new spaces at the Pillow in the early 1990s for exhibitions; the financial crisis at the Pillow; the roles of the Joyce Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, the Doris Duke Foundation, and the new executive director, Sali Ann Kriegsman, in resolving the Pillow's financial difficulties; obtaining a NIPAD [National Initiative to Preserve America's Dance] grant in 1996 to preserve Pillow videotapes, in partnership with the New York Public Library; creating a permanent home in Blake's Barn for the Pillow Archives; the evolution of the Pillow Archives over the years, in particular as a member of the Dance Heritage Coalition; providing a context for the live performances at the Pillow through use of the Pillow Archives; his various digital initiatives including the transformation of the Jacob's Pillow Dance interactive touchscreen kiosk to an on line, interactive exhibition and his monthly, email newsletter Virtual Pillow Views; showing an excerpt from a film of Lucas Hoving's Growing up in public (1984) juxtaposed with a film of a performance at Jacob's Pillow of Carmen de Lavallade's As I remember it (2014), as an illustration of how the Pillow's past and present coexist; curating, historical context, and Jacob's Pillow.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 913744948
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b20729514
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 529fee80-b8ca-0133-277f-60f81dd2b63c
Rights Statement
This item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).

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MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Norton Owen" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2014.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Norton Owen" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed April 13, 2024.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2014). Interview with Norton Owen Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Norton Owen, (2014)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=April 13, 2024 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Norton Owen