David Belasco play scripts
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
David Belasco (1853-1931) was one of the most influential American theater impresarios during the turn of the twentieth century. Born to a Sephardic Jewish family in San Francisco, California, Belasco began working various theater jobs as a youth, eventually serving as a stage manager for an itinerant acting troupe that worked the boomtowns and backcountries of the American west. He moved to New York City in 1882, becoming the manager of the Madison Square Theater and later the Lyceum Theater. Throughout his career, he was a playwright, actor, director, manager, producer, and theater owner. Belasco either wrote, co-wrote, directed, or produced more than 100 Broadway plays. Among his artistic collaborators were the playwright Henry Churchill de Mille as well as de Mille's son, the early film pioneer Cecil Blount DeMille (four of Belasco's collaborations with the elder de Mille are included in this collection). Belasco was particularly renowned for his elaborate yet meticulously realistic productions, and particularly for pioneering innovations in lighting techniques and technologies. He demanded a natural acting style and went to great lengths in his scripts to describe specifics of setting and props, an idiosyncrasy evident in the scripts included in this collection. He also helped launch the careers of several early theater and film stars, including Leslie Carter, Blanche Bates, David Warfield, Jeanne Eagels, Frances Starr, and Mary Pickford. Pickford described him as "like the King of England, Julius Caesar and Napoleon rolled into one." In 1907, Belasco's success allowed him to build his own theater in Manhattan, originally named the Stuyvesant Theater and then renamed the Belasco, where he continued to stage plays until his death.
This collection contains twelve bound volumes, each containing a typescript of a single play authored, co-authored, or in one case adapted by David Belasco. Nearly all of these typescripts bear a stamp on the title page indicating that they are the property of Belasco and were written under his supervision. Some contain limited handwritten marginal notes, though it is unclear who made these notes. They are arranged chronologically according to the year each play opened.
Formerly: 812 B412C; 812 B412G; 812 B412Gr; 812 B412L; 812 B412Me; 812 B412N; 812 B412R; 812 B412S; 812 B412U; 812 B412W; 812 B412Wi 812 B4121G
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Cory Austin Knudson
- Finding Aid Date
- 2020 February 7
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.