ROUNDABOUT BLOG

Roundabout Archive

Interview with our Archivist, Tiffany Nixon

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by Roundabout

 

Tiffany nixon, Archivist

BroadwayWorld:  When did you start working at Roundabout?

Tiffany Nixon:  I started working for Roundabout in December of 2008.  They had just received funding to start the archives; I came on after they had gone through an initial assessment.


BWW:  And where were you before that?

TN:  I worked on the Doris Duke Project for the New York Public Library, Library for the Performing Arts.


BWW:  When you started it was working on the physical archives, right? Tell us about how that initial process took place…

TN: Roundabout had secured a space in their basement - which had historically been used for tech costumes and hand props – as the only space large enough to house the archives.  Roundabout cleared out the room and installed shelving. I had to hire -I kid you not - a hazmat team who came in and performed major cleaning. It was a major undertaking.

Gorilla Mask and
Suit used in Cabaret, 1998


BWW:  Stop the presses -- did you get to wear one of the suits?

TN: I didn't, but the team that came in did -they couldn't do a regular cleaning because they had to tackle the particulate in the air with a wet cleaning.

It took months to paint and get it ready to house the archives. During that time I set up a processing table and started to interview the people that work for Roundabout, including theatre staff and crews, to figure out what documentation actually survived.

I found documents in offsite prop storage and in the theaters, Gene Feist, the founder of Roundabout, gave some of his documents but the bulk of his materials were donated previously to the New York Public Library (there is a substantial collection of early Roundabout documents in that  collection). Little by little, the archives started to build and it has really come a long way.


BWW:  Has it been a challenge to get people to help? What has the 'buy-in' been like?

TN: Theater companies generally do not keep extensive documentation of their productions – this happens off-Broadway and on Broadway - due to lack of space and staffing. Theater companies, by necessity, are more concerned with programming five years in the future and aren't as concerned with surviving documentation; whereas archives are concerned with the present, five years back, ten years back, etc. and work to make sure that a company's body of work is documented and celebrated.

In the case of Roundabout, much of the early documentation didn't survive due to many physical moves throughout the last 40+ years. We do have a sizable amount of documents from the early years (playbills, photographs, scripts, etc.) but the bulk of the collection covers the 1990s/ Broadway years to the present.

Roy Dotrice, Jonathan Hogan, John Horton and
Daniel Gerroll in The Homecoming.
Photo credit Martha Swope.


BWW:  What's the oldest document that you have in the archives?

TN:  Early incorporation documents from 1965; pamphlets and advertisements from the mid 1960s; and photographs of productions in the 1960s and 1970s.


BWW:  And if somebody's doing research and they want to come in to see the physical archives, is that something that's possible or no?

TN:  It's by appointment only but researchers can absolutely access the collection – especially if the production/subject is not found within the online archives.


BWW:  Now moving on to the digital archives, was the idea there at the beginning, back in 2009 or did that come later?

TN: Definitely. Roundabout wanted a digital archive and it was one of the early goals for the archives project. Roundabout planned to re-launch its website so we decided it was crucial to include the archives on the new site. That said, the archives are relatively new which means that the online archives are still very much a work in progress.  Many of the records are skeleton records that will eventually be fleshed out with extensive cataloguing. It will only get better with time.


BWW:  How actually was the site developed, was it an in-house team or was it one of the outside agencies?

TN:  The Roundabout website was designed and built in collaboration with an outside vendor. The archives microsite was designed and built by Collective Access which is  an open source software cataloging tool used extensively by special collection archives.

Design mold of a griffin
used throughout the historic
Selwyn Theatre renovation


BWW:  How much of the physical archives have now been digitized?

TN:  It's actually a small portion; the browse areas on the site are curated to mainly pull selections, or highlights, from the archives - such as photographs, costumes, productions, etc.  In time, more of our collection will be scanned and made available but the bulk of the collection will remain unscanned but will be available for viewing and research at the physical archive.


BWW:  And are you adding to it on a daily basis, a weekly basis?

TN:  On a weekly basis the system is updated but we add to the catalog daily.


BWW:  How are you handling all the new content that Roundabout generates for all the current and upcoming productions?

TN:  That's a good question.  Many of the documents created are born digital and, like most companies, Roundabout is still devising best practices for capturing and archiving those documents. A large percentage of the documentation comes to the archives in paper form, however, and will remain in paper form.

In terms of paper documentation, once a show closes the production bibles, costumes, marketing materials, etc. show up at the archives for permanent housing.  I work with the general managers of the theatres to orchestrate the movement of materials to ensure that proper retention takes place.


BWW:  And will you be cataloguing things like the use of Twitter and Facebook and social media and websites, as well as the production elements?

TN:  Definitely, in time.  Facebook and all the many other social networking sites contain interesting, topical information about productions, actors, etc. Roundabout's marketing department captures much of that and, yes, it will eventually be cataloged and made available in the archives.

Feather and gold sequin dress
worn by Eartha Kitt in
Roundabout's 2003 production of Nine.


BWW:  What are some of your favorite things that you've found while putting the archives together?

TN:  The costumes are really important to me because they say so much about the production in which they were worn.  Many companies don't have the ability to keep costumes or take them out of rotation, so I am lucky that Roundabout does. Significant pieces – such as Cabaret and Nine costumes - really stand out.

And then I would say the stories and oral history interviews with actors, designers and other collaborators throughout the years, specifically people who have spanned the years as they tend to reveal much about the company and its evolution.  And of course, the ephemera is wonderful - opening night pens that actors give to directors and other tokens that few people get to see but are on display here – those are very special.


BWW:  What has the reaction been so far, both internally and externally, to the new website?

TN:  Really good so far, and I think that will continue to grow as more items are included and more people learn about Roundabout's archives.

I do think that making these documents available online is a great resource: being able to pull up a play, the accompanying production photos, aspects of the production, performance reports, costume sketches, etc. is hugely beneficial to researchers. It's a unique collection.


BWW: Thank you very much for shedding some light on this excited new project – is there anything else that you'd like to share with our audience?

TN:  I do want to stress that the archives are a continuation of Roundabout's larger mission to serve the theatre community through education. I also want to encourage people to use the online catalog and check back frequently for updates and improvements.

 

 


To learn more about Roundabout's history and productions, visit our online archives.

 


Related Categories:
Roundabout Archive, Staff Spotlight


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We Remember Eli Wallach

Posted on: June 26th, 2014 by Roundabout

 

Eli Wallach. Photo source IMDb.

Roundabout mourns the loss of our dear friend, Eli Wallach, who passed away on June 24th at the age of 98. Eli was known to many for his huge breadth of film work, taking on character roles of all kinds over the course of his 60-year career. He was deservedly awarded an honorary Oscar for those performances in 2010. But Eli's first love was the theatre, and he returned to it over and over again in the midst of his success on screen. He was an early favorite of playwright Tennessee Williams, appearing in the original productions of both The Rose Tattoo and Camino Real. Eli was frequently paired on stage with his wife, Anne Jackson. They would play together in everything from Eugene Ionesco's Rhinoceros to Jean Ahouilh's Waltz of the Toreadors, becoming a leading couple of the American theatre. We were lucky to have Eli join the Roundabout in 1992 with his performance in Arthur Miller's The Price at the Criterion Center on Broadway.

He was truly stunning to watch on stage. As Mel Gussow wrote in the New York Times, "Mr. Wallach delights in the theatricality of Solomon, a role that can support histrionics...[H]e wears his stagecraft like a comfortable overcoat: the shrug, the quizzical pause and the rhetorical question that cuts to the quick." Eli truly became part of the family from that point forward, joining us for readings, openings, and galas. He was an immense talent, a joy to be with, and a real treasure. He will be missed.

Hector Elizondo and Eli Wallach in The Price. Photo by Martha Swope.

 

 


Visit Roundabout's archive to learn more about Eli Wallach and our productions.


Related Categories:
Roundabout Archive, Star Spotlight


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We Remember Nicholas Martin

Posted on: May 8th, 2014 by Roundabout

 

Photo by Walter McBride.

In honor of the late Nicholas Martin and his accomplished stage career, we take a look back at his directorial work with us through the years.

Martin’s first production with Roundabout was a revival of Jean Anouilh’s The Rehearsal starring Roger Rees, David Threlfall, Frances Conroy, and Anna Gunn. A mirror play of sorts, the plot of The Rehearsal follows the residents of a 1950s French Château as they prepare to stage a comedy by Marivaux. The show opened in November 1996 at Criterion Center Stage Right and earned three Drama Desk Award nominations.

 

Frances Conroy and Roger Rees in 'The Rehearsal.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

In 1998, Martin returned to the Roundabout stage to direct George Bernard Shaw’s You Never Can Tell. Known as one of Shaw’s “Plays Pleasant,” this comedy of errors provides a snapshot of popular opinion about love and mores at the turn of the 20th century, with particular emphasis on the forthcoming Feminist Movement. The production starred Roundabout alumni Helen Carey and Katie Finneran. The New York Times writer Wilborn Hampton reviewed Martin’s production as “pleasant as a light, breezy summer's day at the seashore.”

 

Robert Sean Leonard and Katie Finneran in 'You Never Can Tell.' Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

Martin’s final production with Roundabout was a revival of Noël Coward’s Present Laughter, which opened at the American Airlines Theatre in January 2010. Present Laughter is Coward’s semi-autobiographical comedy about a self-indulgent actor, Garry Essendine, on the precipice of a mid-life crisis. Variety writer David Rooney lauded, “Martin’s production is at its best — and truest to the sophistication and restraint that is key to Coward’s comedy.” The production starred veteran stage actor, and Martin’s close friend, Victor Garber.

 

Victor Garber and Nicholas Martin. Photo by Peter Jacobsen.

 

In 2013, Martin was nominated for a Tony Award and an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Direction of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, which starred Roundabout alumni Kristine Nielsen (Les Liaisons Dangereuses, A Streetcar Named Desire) and Billy Magnussen (The Ritz).

Todd Haimes and the entire Roundabout Theatre Company staff mourn the loss of such a beloved member of our family. Our thoughts and prayers are with his friends and family at this difficult time.

 


Related Categories:
Roundabout Archive, Star Spotlight


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