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Charles Playhouse Collection

Overview

Abstract

Scope and Contents

Administrative Information

Detailed Description

Administrative Records

Legal and Financial

Correspondence

Physical Plant

Production Material

Publicity

Photographic Images

Audio-Visual Material and Memorabilia

Related Material

Box OV 32

Box OV 33

Box OV 34

Box OV 35

Box OV 36

Box OV 37

Box OV 38

Box OV 39

Box OV 40

Box OV 41

Box OV 42

Box OV 43

Box OV 44

Box MC 3-1

Box MC 3-2

Box 25

Box 26

Box MC 3-3

Box MC 3-4


Charles Playhouse Collection, 1945-2003 | Boston Public Library Archival and Manuscript Finding Aid Database

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Collection Overview

Title: Charles Playhouse Collection, 1945-2003Add to your cart.

Predominant Dates: 1957-1995

Collection Identifier: MS 5071

Primary Creator: Sugrue, Francis, 1927-

Extent: 50.0 Cubic Feet

Arrangement:

Arranged into 9 series:

1. Administrative Records, 1958-1993

2. Legal and Financial, 1957-1995

3. Correspondence

4. Physical Plant, 1958-1995

5. Production Material, 1957-1998

6. Publicity, n.d., 1957-2003

7. Photographs, 1947-2003

8. Audio-Visual, 1945-1993

9. Related Material, 1958-2003

Date Acquired: 00/00/2009

Subjects: Charles Playhouse (Boston, Mass.)., Sugrue, Francis, 1927-., Theater -- Massachusetts -- Boston., Theater management -- Massachusetts -- Boston.

Forms of Material: Blueprints., Clippings., Financial statements., Letters., Photographs., Playbills., Posters., Scrapbooks., Theater programs.

Languages: English

Abstract

This collection dates from 1945-2003 (bulk 1957-1995) and documents  the history of the Charles Playhouse under the tenure of Frank Sugrue.  With its mission to present serious theater, the Charles Playhouse quickly distinguished itself in the Boston theater scene upon its opening and maintained this distinction throughout the years by providing many “firsts” to Boston audiences.  In particular, this collection documents the beginnings and daily operations of the theatre and its various onsite restaurants and clubs, as well as the premieres, notable plays, famous actors, and other cultural enrichments that it brought to the city.  Records consist of correspondence, financial statements, blueprints, scrapbooks, and programs. Photographs, playbills, production materials, news clippings, posters and other publicity materials are also included.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

This collection dates from 1945-2003 (bulk 1957-1995) and documents the history of the Charles Playhouse under the tenure of Frank Sugrue.  In additon, it also documents the work of Artistic Director Michael Murray, who served in that postion (and as Co-Producer) from 1958-1968. From the beginning, the Charles Playhouse distinguished itself in the Boston theater scene and maintained this distinction throughout the years by providing many “firsts” to Boston audiences.  In particular, this collection documents the beginnings and daily operations of the theater and its various onsite restaurants and clubs, as well as the premieres, notable plays, famous actors, and other cultural enrichments that it brought to the city.

In November 1958, the Charles Playhouse opened at 76 Warrenton Street with Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Cometh.  With its mission to present serious theater, the Charles continued to expose theatergoers to the most important playwrights of the time and often staged controversial works. For example, Edward Bond's political parable Narrow Road to the Deep North had its national premiere at the Charles Playhouse in November 1969.  One of the most influential productions was Vinnette Carroll and Micki Grant's protest musical Don’t Bother Me, I Can't Cope.  This play, which examined the African-American experience, opened in June 1976 at a time when race relations in Boston were strained but became the Charles's longest running and highest grossing musical.  Another notable production, Shear Madness was still playing at the Charles in 2012. It is the longest running non-musical play in American theater history.

The Charles Playhouse also launched the careers of several well-known actors.  Olympia Dukakis, a founding member of the Actor's Company (which became the Charles), appeared in every production from 1957-1959.  Jane Alexander (1964) and Jill Clayburgh (1967) began their professional careers there, as members of the Charles's Resident Acting Company.  Al Pacino starred in the 1967 productions of America Hurrah and Awake and Sing.  He returned to the Charles, as both a director and actor, for 1970s performances of Rats and The Indian Wants the Bronx, as well as Arturo Ui.

Important “firsts” that the Charles brought to Boston were the Musical Theatre for Children and the comedy club.  Musical Theatre for Children debuted during the 1964-65 Season and ran continuously for seven years.  In March 1974, the Charles opened Boston's first comedy club, The Cabaret, which featured Jay Leno.  Additionally, the Charles hosted many Boston premieres, including Jean Anouilh's drama Poor Bitos, which opened in November 1965 and provided Bostonians with both high quality, modern theater and an introduction to well-known Canadian actor Eric House.

Along with its notable accomplishments, this collection also documents the beginnings and daily operations of the theatre and its various onsite restaurants and clubs from 1958-1995.  This includes the organizational and policy changes that the Charles underwent – moving from a theater with a resident acting company to one who used visiting performers to, finally, becoming a booking house.  The planning and implementation of capital development plans, benefits and subscription campaigns are also chronicled as are staff positions and operating procedures.  Particularly prevalent are records of the many bars, restaurants and clubs which took up residence at the Charles through the years.  Among them are The Playhouse Restaurant, the Comedy Connection, the Lunch Club and Late Club, and Roberta's ShowBiz Cafe.

Of special note are the Charles's 10th and 30th Anniversary celebrations.  For the 10th Anniversary (1966-67), the Charles refurbished the Playhouse interior and original company members, namely Olympia Dukakis and Edward Zang, returned to the stage for an ambitious season which featured a production of Shakespeare's Hamlet.  In November 1988, the Charles Playhouse celebrated the 30th Anniversary with commemorative events, including a Gala Ball with guest of honor Jane Alexander, a special encore performance of the repeat hit Jacques Brel.

In addition, this collection conveys The Charles Playhouse's role in Boston's Theatre District as well as in national theatre organizations.  The Charles participated in many of Boston's cultural events designed to expose the public to the arts, including the Boston Arts Festival (1959, 1963), WinterFest (1966-67) and Summerthing (1968-70).  Through membership in civic organizations, such as the Theatre District Association, and involvement with numerous city task forces, including the Mayor's Task Force on Urban Theatres, the Charles and its management were an influential part of the Theatre District's redevelopment from the late 1970s-1980s.  For example, the Charles participated in the planning process with the Boston Redevelopment Authority and also, for a time, was charged with redevelopment of one of the empty land parcels (C2).

The collection contains playbills, scripts, stage plans and set designs, cast lists, contracts, financial statements, correspondence, blueprints, renovation plans, and scrapbooks. Photographs, posters, press releases, artwork, advertisements and news clippings are also included.

Collection Historical Note

Biographical Note

Frank Sugrue, co-founder, producer and, eventually, owner of the Charles Playhouse was the major force behind the Charles from 1958-1995.  His love of theater began in1945, while serving as a Marine in Tientsin, Republic of China.  Assigned to the Stateside Theatre, Mr. Sugrue was responsible for staging shows to entertain the troops stationed in Tientsin.  When the Charles Street Playhouse opened in 1957, Mr. Sugrue, then a young lawyer, quickly became a regular attendee and, soon after, its producer and co-founder, thus turning a hobby into a successful career.  His dedication was recognized in 1980 when he received the Grand Bostonian Award for “contribution to the quality of life in the city through the performing arts during a 25-year period.”  After many successful years in Boston, Mr. Sugrue sold the Playhouse to Jon Platt in 1995.

Historical Note

The Charles Playhouse (originally called the Charles Street Playhouse) was started in 1957 by a group of Boston University theater department graduates known as the Actor's Company.  Located in a loft above 54 Charles Street, the Charles's premiere performance was a double bill of Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit and Tennessee Williams's This Property is Condemned.  The company, including Olympia Dukakis, John Heffernan, and Edward Zang, garnered a tremendous following and, within a year, the Charles had outgrown its location. In 1958, now with a permanent Producer (Frank Sugrue) and Artistic Director (Michael Murray), the Charles moved to 76 Warrenton Street and inaugurated this new era with a critically acclaimed production of Eugene O'Neill's The Iceman Commeth. As Artistic Director, Mr. Murray chose and cast each play, enlisted experienced designers, and directed the majority of the productions. Moreover, he brought in the poet Anne Sexton as a resident artist, and in the early sixties, he developed the idea of a resident company to play in a season of plays—Jane Alexander, Al Pacino, Jill Clayburgh, Ned Beatty and Linda Lavin were part of that company in different years. In addition, Mr. Murray was the public face of the organization and articulated the Playhouse’s philosophy. He started the Charles Playbook, a journal with pieces by local scholars, and “Sunday at Six”, a regular discussion with actors and audiences. His work at the Charles won him the Rodgers and Hammerstein Award for Having Done the Most for the Theater in Boston.

The building at 76 Warrenton Street, designed by the American architect Asher Benjamin (1773-1845), was constructed in 1838 as the Fifth Universalist Church and had many iterations through the years, among them the first synagogue in Boston, a speakeasy, and various nightclubs and casinos.  In 1980, 76 Warrenton Street was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in recognition of its being an Asher Benjamin-designed church.

From its inception, the Charles Playhouse sought to create a unique identity among Boston’s theaters.  It was the first regional theater in New England when the concept was still little known in the United States, and it introduced the world’s most influential playwrights to Boston audiences.  While the Charles underwent many organizational changes and faced many challenges over the years, it consistently found new ways to distinguish itself and enrich the cultural life of Boston.  Throughout the years, the Charles's contributions continued: as a beginning for famous actors; as an introduction to the arts through programs such as Musical Theatre for Children and the Living Stage; as the  ground-breaking venue which hosted numerous Boston premieres, notable productions and Boston's first comedy club; and as the home of “Shear Madness,” the longest running non-musical play in American theatre history.

From its opening, the Charles Playhouse was a vital part of Boston’s Theatre District.  Not only was it the sole regional professional theater in the city, it also participated in many cultural events designed to expose the public to the arts, including the Boston Arts Festival, WinterFest and Summerthing.  Through membership in civic organizations such as the Theatre District Association and the League of Boston Theaters, as well as involvement with various city task forces during the district’s redevelopment, the Charles and its management helped the Theatre District evolve into a vibrant cultural area. After many successful years in Boston, Mr. Sugrue sold the Playhouse to Jon Platt in 1995. Beginning in 1995 and continuing through to 2012, the Charles has been home to the performance art troupe the Blue Man Group. The Charles is also home to the play Shear Madness, which has been running at the theater since its premier in 1980.

Subject/Index Terms

Charles Playhouse (Boston, Mass.).
Sugrue, Francis, 1927-.
Theater -- Massachusetts -- Boston.
Theater management -- Massachusetts -- Boston.

Administrative Information

Repository: Boston Public Library Archival and Manuscript Finding Aid Database

Access Restrictions: Collection is open for research.

Use Restrictions:

In most cases, the Boston Public Library does not hold the copyright to the items in our collections. In addition, we do not assert any additional restrictions on copies of items beyond those that might exist in the original.

As such, we cannot grant or deny permission to use copies of items held in our collections.

It is the sole responsibility of the user to make his or her own determination about what types of usage might be permissible under U.S. and international copyright law. Provision of a copy from the Boston Public Library should not be construed as explicit permission to use it for any particular reason.

Attribution

If you are using a credit line, please use “Boston Public Library” with the collection or call number, if available.

Physical Access Note: This collection is housed off-site and requires a 2 business-day advance notice for retrieval. Please consult the Archives  Department for further information.

Acquisition Source: Donation

Acquisition Method: Frank Segrue

Related Materials:

Boston Theatre (Federal Street) Records, 1793-1852

http://archon.bpl.org/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=68

Boston Theatre and Opera House (Washington Street) Collection), 1847-1855

http://archon.bpl.org/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=69

Hanlon Theatrical Collection, 1875-1932

http://archon.bpl.org/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=70

Michael and Antoinette Kavanagh Collection, 1933-1956

http://archon.bpl.org/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=112

National Theatre Collection, 1837-1864

http://archon.bpl.org/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=73

Rebekah Hobbs Theatrical Portrait Collection, 1929-1936

http://archon.bpl.org/index.php?p=collections/controlcard&id=66

Processing Information: Finding aid written by Melissa Hulse, September 2010.


Box and Folder Listing


Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Administrative Records, 1958-1993],
[Series 2: Legal and Financial, 1957-1995],
[Series 3: Correspondence, 1947-2003],
[Series 4: Physical Plant, 1961-1994],
[Series 5: Production Material, 1957-1995],
[Series 6: Publicity, 1957-2003],
[Series 7: Photographic Images, 1957-1995],
[Series 8: Audio-Visual Material and Memorabilia, 1945-1994],
[Series 9: Related Material, 1958-2003],
[Box OV 32],
[Box OV 33],
[Box OV 34],
[Box OV 35],
[Box OV 36],
[Box OV 37],
[Box OV 38],
[Box OV 39],
[Box OV 40],
[Box OV 41],
[Box OV 42],
[Box OV 43],
[Box OV 44],
[Box MC 3-1],
[Box MC 3-2],
[Box 25],
[Box 26],
[Box MC 3-3],
[Box MC 3-4],
[All]

Series 8: Audio-Visual Material and Memorabilia, 1945-1994Add to your cart.
This series chronicles the history of the Charles Playhouse and its early productions, as well as its 10th and 30th anniversaries.  Organized into two Sub-series: A). Audio-Visual and  B). Memorabilia. Also see OV boxes 40, 41, 42, and 44 (map case 3) for additional memorabilia.
Sub-Series A: Audio-Visual, 1977-1995Add to your cart.
Arranged alphabetically. Included in this Sub-series are recordings of such productions as In 3 Zones and A Christmas Carol and demonstration tapes of unproduced scripts.
Box 27Add to your cart.
Folder 1: 33 1/3 rpm Album: Tony Lavelli One Man Show, 1981?Add to your cart.
Folder 2: 45 rpm Records: Diamond Studs, 1975?Add to your cart.
Folder 3: 45 rpm Records: This End Up (Boston Theatre Project, Inc.), 1978Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Casettes: Demos: Color Me Dorothy, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 5: Casettes: Demos: Cutting Loose, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Casettes: Demos: In the Garden of Alice, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Casettes: Demos: Loose Connections: “A Musical Collage”, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Casettes: Demos: Rock King (2 folders), n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Casettes: Demos: Rock King, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 10: Casettes: Demos: Unproduced Scripts: Dime Novel, 1977Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Casettes: Demos: Unproduced Scripts: The Eighties – God Help Us!, 1980Add to your cart.
Folder 12: Casettes: Demos: Unproduced Scripts: I Only Just Got Here Myself, 1980Add to your cart.
Folder 13: Casettes: Demos: Unproduced Scripts: Perfect Love!, 1983Add to your cart.
Folder 14: Casettes: Publicity: Larry Glick Show/WHDH and Interview: Caito and Morin (Comedy Club), 6 December 1990Add to your cart.
Folder 15: Dictaphone Tape: Death of a Salesman , October-November 1981Add to your cart.
Folder 16: Reel-to-Reel: Productions: In 3 Zones, 1970Add to your cart.
Folder 17: Reel-to-Reel: Productions: A Christmas Carol (4 reels), 1980-1981?Add to your cart.
Folder 18: Reel-to-Reel: Productions: A Christmas Carol, 1980-1981?Add to your cart.
Folder 19: Reel-to-Reel: Productions: A Christmas Carol, 1980-1981?Add to your cart.
Folder 20: Reel-to-Reel: Productions: A Christmas Carol, 1980-1981?Add to your cart.
Folder 21: Reel-to-Reel: Productions: Man & Superman (2 reels), December 1981-January 1982Add to your cart.
Folder 22: Reel-to-Reel: Productions: Man & Superman, December 1981-January 1982Add to your cart.
Folder 23: Reel-to-Reel: AIM Classroom Tape, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 24: Reel-to-Reel: Unidentified, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 25: Reel-to-Reel: Various Songs, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 26: VHS: Comedy Connection 10 Year Anniversary, 11 April 1988Add to your cart.
Folder 27: VHS: Jim Bailey Promo, 9 March 1994Add to your cart.
Folder 28: VHS: Frank Sugrue – BCA, 3 July 1995Add to your cart.
Folder 29: Always – Patsy Cline, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 30: VHS: Cole to Cole Show, 13 March n.y.Add to your cart.
Folder 31: VHS: South Florida Business Report: Channel 5 Interview, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 32: VHS: Unidentified, n.d.Add to your cart.
Sub-Series B: Memorabilia, 1945-1994Add to your cart.

Arranged alphabetically.  Comprised of scrapbooks, awards and commendations, tickets, season playbooks as well as signage and other décor from the theater and restaurants.

NOTE:  All scrapbooks had to be photocopied due to their deteriorated condition.  One scrapbook had to be discarded completely due to severe mold and damage: Scrapbook details - Oct-Dec 1958.  Included reviews, ads and other news clippings related to the pre-opening of the Charles as well as the productions “The Iceman Cometh,” “Hotel Paradiso,” and “Shadow of a Gunman” from the Brookline Citizen, Cambridge Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, Boston Herald, Boston Traveler, Boston Record American, Boston Globe, Panorama and the Harvard Crimson.

Box 28Add to your cart.
Folder 1: 30th Anniversary, 1988Add to your cart.
Folder 2: Awards and Commendations, 1960, 1970, 1980, 1988Add to your cart.
Folder 3: Burns Mantle Theater Yearbook, The: The Best Plays of 1966-1967, 1967Add to your cart.
Folder 4: Business Cards, 196?-1993Add to your cart.
Folder 5: China Years, 1945-1947Add to your cart.
Folder 6: Letterheads, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 7: Text Copy, Playbook, 1960-1961Add to your cart.
Folder 8: Playbooks (season), 1960-1966, 1968-1969Add to your cart.
Folder 9: Restaurant, 1970-1993, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 10: Scrapbooks: 1958-1959 Season, 1958-1959Add to your cart.
Folder 11: Scrapbooks: Newspaper Ads, 1959-1962Add to your cart.
Folder 12: Scrapbooks: Charles Playhouse Season, 1962-1964Add to your cart.
Folder 13: Threepenny Opera (3 folders), June-November 1962Add to your cart.
Folder 14: Threepenny Opera, June-November 1962Add to your cart.
Folder 15: Threepenny Opera, June-November 1962Add to your cart.
Folder 16: Scrapbooks: Hedda Gabler, November-December 1962Add to your cart.
Folder 17: Scrapbooks: Publicity, December 1961-April 1962, September 1964-December 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 18: Scrapbooks: Advertisements, September 1962-February 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 19: Scrapbooks: Cabaret Theatre, October 1962-January 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 20: Scrapbooks: General Clippings, November 1962- April 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 21: Scrapbooks: Little Mary Sunshine, December 1962- January 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 22: Scrapbooks: Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feeling So Sad, January-February 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 23: Scrapbooks: Candida, February-April 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 24: Scrapbooks: The Hostage, September-November 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 25: Scrapbooks: The Rhinoceros (2 folders), November-December 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 26: Scrapbooks: The Rhinoceros, November-December 1963Add to your cart.
Folder 27: Scrapbooks: The Boys from Syracuse (2 folders), December 1963-January 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 28: Scrapbooks: The Boys from Syracuse, December 1963-January 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 29: Scrapbooks: Man and Superman, January-March 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 30: Scrapbooks: Six Characters in Search of an Actor, February-April 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 31: Scrapbooks: The Glass Menagerie, April-July 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 32: Scrapbook: Charles Playhouse News, April 1964-April 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 33: Scrapbooks: Presentation Grant Proposal, 1963-1964Add to your cart.
Folder 34: Scrapbooks: A Touch of the Poet, September-October 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 35: Scrapbooks: A Touch of the Poet, Musical Theatre for Children, September-November 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 36: Scrapbooks: Musical Theatre for Children, October 1964-June 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 37: Scrapbooks: Living Stage Program, October 1964-March 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 38: Scrapbooks: The Rivals, October-December 1964Add to your cart.
Folder 39: Scrapbooks: She Loves Me (2 folders), November 1964-February 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 40: Scrapbooks: She Loves Me, November 1964-February 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 41: Scrapbooks: Major Barbara, November 1965- January 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 42: Scrapbooks: The Madwoman of Chaillot, Musical Theatre for Children, January-February 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 43: Scrapbooks: The Plough and The Stars, February-April 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 44: Scrapbooks: The Pinter Plays: The Lover and The Collection, Musical Theatre for Children, March-May 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 45: Scrapbooks: Musical Theatre for Children, April 1965-March 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 46: Scrapbooks: The Miser, September-November 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 47: Scrapbooks: Poor Bitos, November-December 1965Add to your cart.
Folder 48: Scrapbooks: Galileo, January-March 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 49: Scrapbooks: The Inspector General, February-April 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 50: Scrapbooks: The Typists and The Tiger, February-April 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 51: Scrapbooks: 10th Anniversary Season, April 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 52: Scrapbooks: Love for Love, June-October 1966Add to your cart.
Folder 53: Scrapbooks: Hamlet, October 1966-January 1967Add to your cart.
Folder 54: Scrapbooks: Mother Courage, January-February 1967Add to your cart.
Folder 55: Scrapbooks: Oh! What a Lovely War!, February-March 1967Add to your cart.
Folder 56: Scrapbooks: Charles Playhouse News, March-April 1974Add to your cart.
Folder 57: Scrapbooks: Roberta’s Showbiz Café, November 1993-April 1994Add to your cart.
Folder 58: Signage, n.d.Add to your cart.
Folder 59: Tickets, 1959 – 1967, 1970 –1991Add to your cart.
Folder 60: Your Father’s Mustache, 1962-1970Add to your cart.

Browse by Series:

[Series 1: Administrative Records, 1958-1993],
[Series 2: Legal and Financial, 1957-1995],
[Series 3: Correspondence, 1947-2003],
[Series 4: Physical Plant, 1961-1994],
[Series 5: Production Material, 1957-1995],
[Series 6: Publicity, 1957-2003],
[Series 7: Photographic Images, 1957-1995],
[Series 8: Audio-Visual Material and Memorabilia, 1945-1994],
[Series 9: Related Material, 1958-2003],
[Box OV 32],
[Box OV 33],
[Box OV 34],
[Box OV 35],
[Box OV 36],
[Box OV 37],
[Box OV 38],
[Box OV 39],
[Box OV 40],
[Box OV 41],
[Box OV 42],
[Box OV 43],
[Box OV 44],
[Box MC 3-1],
[Box MC 3-2],
[Box 25],
[Box 26],
[Box MC 3-3],
[Box MC 3-4],
[All]


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