|American Theatre Archive Project|
By Susan Brady and Ken Cerniglia
Last year, while brainstorming new sources of income in the face of a recession – which among other things has accelerated funding jeopardy for theatre archives – we happened upon a rather big idea: perhaps we could take on both issues with a single initiative. With cooperative, executive flair, outgoing ASTR president Tracy Davis and incoming president Rhonda Blair called the ad hoc committee on Archival Preservation into being!
Amid the balmy breezes on the veranda of our conference hotel in San Juan, Stacy Wolf convened Lesley Ferris, Harvey Young, and the two of us to discuss what ASTR might do to help preserve contemporary theatre activity and encourage new theatre research. While the meeting was brief, we agreed that we were onto something both daunting and exciting – a national project that brings scholars, archivists, and literary managers/dramaturgs together to help American theatre companies consider, preserve, and share their legacy.
Back in our various corners of the country and now joined by Gavin Witt, we began articulating parameters and testing the waters with a few sister organizations. The project quickly gained support and momentum around this mission:
The American Theatre Archive Project (ATAP) is an initiative of ASTR to support theatre makers in archiving records of their process and product, which can be shared with scholars and other theatre makers on premises, online, and/or in a repository. Since theatre is an ephemeral art, establishing archives helps to preserve theatrical activity, disseminate best practices, and increase opportunities for study and scholarship.
The goals of ATAP are:
ATAP partner organizations currently include:
Now that we have the official green light from the ASTR Executive Committee, we are in the midst of applying for an NEA Access to Artistic Excellence grant (focusing on its goal of “documentation, preservation, conservation, and dissemination of America's theatrical heritage”) by the August 12 deadline. Our goal is to fund ATAP externally without drawing on ASTR’s operating budget. Anyone who has experience with NEA grants is encouraged to advise; please see our contact information below.
Susan Brady is an archivist at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, with a specialization in performing arts archives. She holds master’s degrees in Theatre History and Criticism and Library and Information Science from the University of Texas at Austin. Susan is currently vice president of the Theatre Library Association.
Ken Cerniglia is the Dramaturg and Literary Manager for Disney Theatrical Productions in New York. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Washington and has recently published his scholarship in The Theater Annual and Broadway: An Encyclopedia of Theatre and American Culture.