Print and performance exhibit opens
The University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center will showcase its collection of books and images associated with the printing and performance of Shakespeare’s works. The exhibit opened this week and will continue until the summer to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the playwright’s death.
In addition to copies of the first and third folios, the Center will display a Hinman Collator (used to compare different copies of the same work to note textual variants) and several printings related to Shakespeare’s career in the theatre. For historical context, the exhibit includes Robert Green’s Groats-worth of Wit which famously criticized Shakespeare as being “an upstart Crow,” quotations from the turn of the seventeenth century in Robert Allott’s England’s Parnassus, and a 1575 map of London featuring the location of playhouses. The display also features source material for Shakespeare’s plays with the 1594 printing of The True Tragedie of Richard the Third and Raphael Holinshed’s Chronicles of England.
Beyond the textual aspect of Shakespeare’s legacy, however, the exhibit also delves into the performance history of his works. The Center features displays about famous actors such as Sarah Bernhardt, Charlotte Cushman (whose roles included Hamlet and Romeo), John Wilkes Booth (with his prompt book from Richard III), and a large photo of David Garrick’s Hamlet from the collection of Harry Houdini. Ephemera from theatrical companies also incorporate Donald Wolfit ‘s World War II repertory company posters and costumes, B.J. Simmons’s costume designs (like Orson Welles’ Othello), and Norman Bel Geddes’s scenic designs.
In Victorian England, theater managers went to great lengths to create “historically accurate” settings for Shakespeare, hiring costumers like the London firm of B. J. Simmons, which specialized in period attire. In this section, delve into Simmons’s archive to explore different approaches to historical accuracy and authenticity in Shakespeare and see how costumes bring his characters to life. Included are costume designs and photographs for four stagings of Othello produced between 1902 and 1951. – Harry Ransom Center website
An edition of Hamlet by Edward Gordon Craig, director of Constantin Stanislavski’s 1911 production at the Moscow Art Theater, includes woodcut prints and source notes. One copy belonged to George Bernard Shaw and contains a note by the playwright declaring it his favorite edition of the play.
“Shakespeare in Print and Performance” runs through May 29 in Austin, Texas at the Harry Ransom Center. The exhibit is free to the public.