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Friday, March 11, 2011

Six Degrees Revisited

As I mentioned a couple of weeks back in my original 6 Degrees of Rosenbach post, it's slightly scary sometimes how many connections there are between disparate items in the Rosenbach collection. This was brought back to me (again) in a conversation with our Librarian, Elizabeth Fuller, after an event we held last week with the Arden Theater. (You can check out some pictures of the event on the Arden's Blog)

The event featured highlights from our theater holdings and so, perhaps unsurprisingly, one of the common intersections was Shakespeare. We included one straight-up Shakespeare play--a Merchant of Venice from 1619--but we also showcased some playbills from plays attended by Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll) at the Lyceum Theater, including one for The Merchant of Venice. Does the Lyceum Theater sound familiar? That's because Bram Stoker was the manager. Another Lyceum playbill included an advertisement for an upcoming production of Othello featuring Edwin Booth, the older brother of John Wilkes Booth. In another strange twist, Ellen Terry, the Lyceum's leading lady and a famed Shakespearean actress (and a friend of Dodgson's), had as a younger actress played in British productions of Our American Cousin, which of course achieved infamy in its American run as the play at which Lincoln was shot by the younger Booth.

Another of the night's recurring themes seemed to be Greta Garbo. One of the pieces that we showed was copy of Porgy and Bess signed by the Gershwins. Who directed the original production of Porgy and Bess? Rouben Mamoulian, who also directed Greta Garbo in the film Queen Christine. We also showed an early draft of Eugene O’Neill’s Anna Christie. Guess who starred in the film version of Anna Christie? None other than Greta Garbo. In fact it was Anna Christie that was advertised with the famous tagline "Garbo Talks." Jumping off from O'Neill takes us to Eva Le Gallienne, who directed the 1941 Broadway revival of O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness! Le Gallienne is in turn linked to Mercedes de Acosta, with whom she had a long-running romantic affair in the 1920s and Mercedes is linked back again to Greta Garbo.

By the way, speaking of Acosta and Garbo, if you haven't yet marked your calendar for the premier of composer-in-residence Joseph Hallman's performance of Raving Beauty on April 9th, you really should. The piece explores Mercedes's relationship with three women: her sister Rita, Isadora Duncan, and Greta Garbo. You can check out a fun offbeat interview with Hallman here.

Anyway, there are more interconnections I could highlights (Eva Le Gallienne also wrote and directed a stage adaptation of Alice in Wonderland and did a translation of Hans Christian Andersen tales that was illustrated by Maurice Sendak) but it's already getting pretty crazy, so perhaps I'll stop. My challenge for you, the reader, is the one Elizabeth posed to me--can you link the linkers and figure out a Shakespeare/Greta Garbo connection? I managed to find a good one, but I suspect there may be more out there and I am curious to see what you come up with.

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