Introductory note

Introductory note
   The era of modernist theatre is the bibliophile's delight, for it is still possible to collect many volumes with gilt-encrusted covers, lavish illustrations, and abundant anecdotes that were published during those decades. Pictorially, the 1880s and 1890s brought the transition from crude line drawings and gloomy engravings to abundant studio photographs of theatre artists. The theatergoing public was avid for books that afforded glimpses of backstage life, and theatre professionals obliged with a wealth of memoirs. Not only actors, but managers, playwrights, and critics all published retrospectives. Other writers produced a steady flow of books offering collective coverage of a selection of artists.
   While the books published between 1880 and 1930 were aimed at a general readership and tended to anecdotal coverage of mainstream theatre, recent studies by contemporary scholars have more often focused on placing the era's theatre in its cultural, economic, and sociological contexts while embracing a broader range of theatrical activities, including ethnic and popular entertainments outside traditional venues. Trail-blazing ventures like the Provincetown Players or the New Stagecraft have certainly attracted some superb scholars to reexamine them. There has also been a major surge of scholarly interest in vaudeville, among other popular forms. On the whole, however, the quaint charm of the era's clichés and sentimentality has not attracted the great numbers of theatre historians that earlier and later periods in American history have, although in recent years there has been a surge of publications examining African American drama and performers, Yiddish theatre, and various aspects of women in American theatre. Most of the bibliographies and general reference works listed here are not specific to the modernist era, but cover a wider swath.
   The breakdown of the bibliography into categories is somewhat problematic. For example, the decision whether to place a collection of short biographies of actors under historical studies of actors or under biographies and memoirs of actors was resolved by considering where the reader would be most likely to look for it: under historical studies of actors. Only in very few instances have we duplicated listings under more than one category.
   The standard ready references for American theatre that reside on every theatre person's bookshelf are Bordman's Oxford Companion to American Theatre and Wilmeth and Miller's Cambridge Guide to American Theatre. Although comparable in format, each has distinctive features. Bordman inclines toward the commercial theatre and takes an anecdotal approach. Wilmeth and Miller are more comprehensive, including more extensive coverage of ethnic theatres, written with an economy of words. Kennedy's essay-style entries in the Oxford Encyclopedia of Theatre & Performance encompass American as well as international theatre. Sherman's labor of love is interesting for its inclusion of many otherwise neglected figures, but his spellings of names and other data need to be checked against other sources.
   For more details about performers, one turns to Variety Obituaries, always with the understanding that some inaccuracies inevitably lurk in newspaper accounts. Who Was Who in the Theatre, 1912-1976 is a good resource for virtually complete listings of plays in selected artists' careers (British as well as American), although dates of productions are not always provided. And then one can comb the memoirs (see the next section of this bibliography), as theatre artists frequently included one another in their own stories. Two excellent finding guides for such material are Bryan's Stage Lives and Moyer's American Actors, 1861-1910.
   Data on plays (theatre, opening, length of run) may be found in Bronner, Leiter, Mantle, and Odell. While these offer capsule plot summaries, as do we, there is of course no substitute for reading the entire play. The data in those volumes can also be checked against the reviews reprinted in the series of volumes of the New York Times Theater Reviews, which provide comprehensive coverage from 1870 to the present. A range of Internet sources are readily available online; the Internet Broadway Database is a particularly useful quick resource for plays produced in New York, credits, dates, and production personnel; however, between 1880 and World War I the information included tends to be incomplete.
   Julius Cahn's annual volume provides an amazing record of theatre across the nation at the turn of the century. It lists personnel and technical specifications for most opera houses in towns and cities served by the various railroad lines, which are also listed along with local newspapers and bill-posting firms.
   Bernheim's economic history of American theatre remains invaluable and is long overdue to be reprinted. For general histories, volume 2 of Wilmeth and Bigsby's Cambridge History of American Theatre and Londré and Watermeier's History of North American Theater complement each other nicely. Earlier surveys include Coad and Mims, Hewitt, Hughes, Morris, and Wilson. Among regional theatre histories, Schoberlin's 1941 study of Colorado theatre remains particularly engaging. Londré's research for The Enchanted Years of the Stage generated some tidbits that found their way into this volume. Shattuck's Shakespeare on the American Stage is a fascinating text embellished by a wealth of illustrations. Mary Henderson's several books on New York City's theatres have contributed greatly to our understanding of the architecture and changing urban landscape there. Among a rapidly growing list of resources on African American theatre, Hill and Hatch's History of African American Theatre merits particular attention.
   The theatrical memoir of the decades surrounding the turn of the century has given way in our contemporary media-obsessed era to celebrity reporting and interviews. Certainly, the top stars of our day become the subjects of biographies, but they seldom write their own accounts. Browsing in some of the memoirs listed here will make it clear how crucial that form is to our understanding of the era. Despite the artists' faulty memories and inevitable omissions, there is an immediacy, authenticity, and color to personal recollections that no biographer can completely capture. The autobiography of William S. Hart, who had a substantial stage career before he became a cowboy movie star, for example, is a page turner (but beware of the bowdlerized reprint). In the most fascinating memoirs, the artist does not simply chronicle his or her own career, but also reminisces about friendships and influences in the profession. For example, several actors recount similar anecdotes about the remarkable actor and backstage personality Louis James. What a loss to posterity that James did not write his own memoir!
   While the lives of actors most readily attract our interest, the memoirs and biographies of playwrights and other artists are also compelling. Special mention must be made of published recollections of managers, for they necessarily had extensive interconnections with many artists as well as prodigious memories for people. M. B. Leavitt's memoir is astonishing in its scope, and Grau's two volumes are also important.
   Our listing of plays and anthologies of plays must be highly selective, considering the thousands of plays published during the modernist era. Hixon and Hennessee's finding guide to Ninteenth-Century Drama (see bibliographies and reference works) is helpful in this regard. Fortunately, many libraries still house a plethora of single-play editions published during the 1910s and 1920s. Plays that did not get published may often be found in manuscript in the Billy Rose Theatre Collection at Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts or in other theatre archives.
   Practical manuals of theatrical techniques and technology have never been abundant, partly due to the limited market and partly due to how quickly they become outdated as new production methodologies are discovered. In addition to the works listed here, one may find nuggets in biographies of artists like David Belasco as well as of designers. Similarly, there are not many resources on theatrical terminology, although much can be gleaned from memoirs and histories written in or about the period.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

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