Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Louis Lippa (1928-2018) was an American playwright, actor, theatre director, and teacher of the dramatic arts. He was born in Rochester, NY, and grew up in South Philadelphia. He received his B.A. from Temple University, and, after army service in WWII, returned there to complete his M.A in 1951. The same year he became a member of the original Hedgerow Repertory Theatre Company at the Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley, where he began writing plays with the encouragement of the company's founder, Jasper Deeter. Lippa and a friend raised the money to reopen the theater after it closed in the mid 1950s, where they put on Lippa's play A House Remembered, which played off-Broadway and won the 1957 Obie award for best new play. Several more of Lippa's plays were produced off-Broadway, but he became increasingly frustrated by the lack of ensemble or repertory work in New York City. He returned to Philadelphia and worked for six years as artistic director with the Cheltenham Center for the Arts. After receiving his M.F.A. in Playwriting from Temple University and a stint at the Theatre of Western Springs in Illinois, in 1974 Lippa became one of the first members in residence at the then-People's Light and Theatre Company in Malvern, where he would direct, produce, be a writer in residence, and mentor other actors for the rest of his working life. He also maintained ties with Hedgerow as actor, director, and mentor; it was at Hedgerow that he met Nancy Metzgar, his future spouse.
Lippa was an experimental and prolific playwright, influenced by the dramatic theories of Bertolt Brecht and concerned with political, historical, and social issues. His notable original works include Sign of the Lizard, about the death of the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca, which won the Kennedy Center's New Play Award; The Stone House, which won the Dramatic Publishing Company's National Award for a new play; and Sacco and Vanzetti: a vaudeville. He also produced a series of groundbreaking adaptations of the work of Theodore Dreiser, including a highly acclaimed three-hour theatrical version of Sister Carrie. He was also a notable interpreter of the Italian cultural tradition, including adaptations of the work of Luigi Pirandello (Six Characters in Search of an Author, which won a Barrymore for Best Play in 2008) and stage version of The True Adventures of Pinocchio, which attempted to remedy the liberties taken by Disney and restore the strangeness and excitement of the original Italian folktale. Alongside his work at People's Light, Lippa was a prolific actor, director, and educator in the Philadelphia area, and received a Barrymore Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2004. He and his wife Nancy, who died in 2008, had a son Chris and a daughter Anita.
This collection contains material produced and collected by Louis Lippa, primarily but not exclusively related to his work as a playwright-in-residence at the People's Light and Theatre Company. It includes extensive drafts and typescripts of both full-length and one-act plays, writings on theatre, collected unpublished prose, and notes; personal and professional correspondence; contracts and professional material related to Lippa's acting and directing, financial information, journals, date books, and research material; pictures of productions Lippa participated in at Peoples Light, Cheltenham Playhouse, and others; playbills for productions that Lippa wrote, acted in, or directed; and press clippings and promotional material for productions in which Lippa participated. It also includes a wealth of material about the inner workings of People's Light.
Most of Lippa's major theatrical works are represented here, many in multiple revisions and some with production material, such as cast lists, stage manager reports, and promotional materials, documenting their development and eventual staging in great detail.
The correspondence is not extensive, and mostly consists of play submissions and congratulatory notes from Lippa's friends and supporters of People's Light.
The journals contain notes on the theatre and fragments of plays as they developed.
The research material is fragmentary and not comprehensive; however, it is indicative of Lippa's drafting methods and his catholic curiosity about socio-political matters around the world, including the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II, which he hoped to dramatize.
The People's Light material features a raft of inter-office memos which outlined the company's desire to develop a unified theatrical vision in the middle of the 1980's, as well as inner struggles over what direction this development should take; the discussions are frank and often funny, outlining the difficulties of running a regional repertory theatre. It is worth noting that, although Lippa had a strong connection to the Hedgerow Theatre, there is very little material related to this influential institution in this collection.
Gift from Chris Lippa, 2018 July 25
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts