Archives and Manuscripts Blog 4, Access

Earlier this month, Betty Corwin, the creator of the TOFT(Theatre on Film and Tape) Archive passed away at the age of 98. While I had only personally become familiar with the TOFT archive in the past year, it actually had been a motivating factor in my current academic work. Years ago I joked with friends that I wanted to go into history so that I could have a reason to access old archival recordings of Sondheim shows. In March and April of this year that offhand joke became a reality when I was able to visit the TOFT archive to access a musical that I had been writing about for years, Alfred Uhry and Jason Robert Brown’s 1998 work “Parade.” It was an interesting experience however as I learned when I was there that for accessing a taped musical or play that you can only access the work once(unless you receive permission from the donor I believe according to the agreement I signed.) This was in part due to a notorious case where a director had viewed the staging of a musical multiple times and then gone on to basically plagiarize the design, staging, and set in his own production of the work. While I understand their response due to that case, it still sets an interesting precedent for someone to have to contact a creator of a work in order to access a work in an archive. These sorts of hoops are not unheard of, but I can say it did certainly lend an extra pressure while I was viewing the work on my own visit to try to soak in as much as possible during my one allotted viewing session.

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