Although the Indiana University Archive is primarily for research, from time to time they mount an exhibit. Amy Schwier is an Assistant Archivist. She spoke with WFIU’s George Walker here at the studio about their current exhibition.
Visualizing The Theater
“We have always had the papers for the IU Theater Department. Some of those papers had been processed several years ago, but we got a new large accession of records including all of the show files for the theater, dating back to the 1930s. So we thought it might be a good time to get some of these materials out and visible to the public,” says Schwier.
“Once Amy and Angela began to get into the folders and to see all this rich visual material, as well as correspondence on programs, it all fell together. It was perfect for a visual exhibit.”
Amy Jankowski and Angela Kilsdonk are graduate students in IU’s School of Library Science. “A few of the most interesting things for me,” Amy begins, “came from earlier decades, when a lot of things were handmade. Now a lot of the production materials and programs are done by computer.”
Of particular interest were the plans for sets and costumes. “We came across a few really neat costume sketches and a big water color set design. Those were probably my favorites.”
The Text, And …
Angela is particularly taken with a story from the records of the 1940s. “One play that we came upon was Jim Dandy by William Saroyan. He won an Academy Award and a Pulitzer Prize. Because Lee Norvelle was so connected with the National Theater Conference, which had a hand in the development of the play, we were able to get it here at IU before anyone else did. The world premiere took place at Indiana University in 1941, but It wasn’t published until 1947.”
“There’s a lot of really great material surrounding the play,” Angela continues. “We found annotated scripts with the changes, so that you can see the play develop. There’s some really interesting, hand-written sheet music for the play as well.”
That very sheet music, for a chamber ensemble that includes a cash register, is by a composer who is as famous in his own way – in the music world – as Saroyan is in theater: Alan Hovhaness.