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Discover Drama in Special Collections

Special Collections at Falvey Memorial Library offers a wide array of fascinating collections from the early printed works of Saint Augustine to Dime Novels, and many of these collections can be discovered on the Special Collections website and through the Digital Library.

However, many library users may not be fully aware of everything Special Collections has to offer or that they are free to make appointments to use the collections in person. As the library liaison for the departments of English and theatre, I would like to introduce you, the library user, to two related collections, housed in Special Collections, that may be of particular interest to theatre faculty and dramaturgy students.

norma shearer romeo julietThe DiOrio Theater Ephemera Collection, donated by Villanova alumni Eugene L. DiOrio, spans almost 60 years of theatrical history from 1946 to 2012. The collection consists of music and theatre programs for plays, musical theatre productions, musical performances and opera productions in the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas. Playbills form the bulk of this collection, but it also includes many subscription advertising brochures and other musical and theatrical ephemera. Film ephemera is also featured; on the left you will see the playbill and production stills from the Astor Theatre’s showing of the 1936 film Romeo and Juliet directed by George Cukor and starring Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard and John Barrymore.

longwood gardensIn addition to the materials donated by Mr. DiOrio, other materials have been added to the collection from James Kerr, spanning 1931-2012, that focus mostly on New York City productions. Like DiOrio’s original contribution to the collection, these materials are primarily playbills but also include news clippings about performances and obituaries for actors. On the right are two playbills from The Savoy Company. The first theatre company in the U.S. to fully produce the works of Gilbert and Sullivan without altering them to avoid copyright issues, The Savoy now claims to be the oldest amateur theater company in the world dedicated solely to the production of the works of Gilbert and Sullivan.

le theatre combinedThe Le Theatre collection may also be of interest to Villanova’s theatre department. This collection consists of issues of the late 19th-/early 20th-century French periodical Le Theatre. While the periodical itself is mostly in French, the issues contain stunning images of costumes and set design from turn of the century French theatre. This sample, on the left, illustrates the kinds of images to be found in this collection.

If you’re interested in viewing such items, please visit the Special Collection’s website, check for hours of availability, and make an appointment. Special Collections librarians encourage visitors to make appointments even if they intend to come during normal opening hours. Advance notice will ensure that the items are available and ready for use at the time of your visit.

Special thanks to Laura Bang, digital and special collections curatorial assistant, for informing me of these collections and providing me with background information about them.


SarahArticle by Sarah Wingo, team leader- Humanities II, subject librarian for English, literature and theatre.

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Last Modified: March 12, 2014