||The papers of the Hungarian-born American theatre historian, critic, educator, and
anthologist John Gassner (1903-1967) contain manuscripts for numerous works,
extensive correspondence, career and personal papers, research materials, and
by others, forming a notable record of Gassner’s contributions to theatre history.
Many of Gassner’s colleagues are represented in the papers, including fellow
critics, editors, educators, publishers, and theatre professionals, as well as
performers and playwrights, students, fans, and family members, most notably wife
Mollie Kern Gassner who often assisted her husband and continued this role after
John Gassner’s death.
||The papers span 1894-1983, with the bulk dating from the period from 1950 until
Gassner’s death in 1967. The papers are organized into five series, I. Works;
Letters; III. Recipient; IV. Miscellaneous; and V. Additional Materials. The John
Gassner papers in Series I.-IV. (boxes 1-87) were previously described only in
card catalog. This finding aid replicates and replaces that description. Please
the explanatory note at the end of this finding aid for information regarding
arrangement of those manuscripts as well as the abbreviations commonly used in
descriptions. Gassner’s papers were formerly part of the Ransom Center’s Theater
Arts Manuscripts Collection, but now form a separate, discrete collection.
||Manuscripts, notes, and proofs for Gassner’s writings make up Series I. Works,
1926-1969, and represent his output of anthologies, articles, book reviews, columns,
criticism, introductions, lectures, play adaptations, play reports, poetry, and
speeches. The materials are arranged alphabetically by title. Dominant among the
works are his various Best Plays volumes, "Broadway in Review" column, Directions in Modern Theatre and Drama, work toward Dramatic Soundings (posthumously published), Elizabethan Drama, Our Heritage
of World Literature, and A Treasury of the
Theatre. Also present are Gassner’s lectures for his Drama 126 class at
Yale University, 1962-1964, as well as extensive notes on a variety of literary
theatre figures and subjects. All titles are represented in the Index of Works
this finding aid.
||Series II. Letters, 1941-1967, contains outgoing letters written by Gassner that are
arranged alphabetically by the recipient’s name. This is a small (1 box) gathering
because much of Gassner’s outgoing correspondence was kept interfiled with his
incoming correspondence in Series III. Recipient. There is an Index of Letters
this finding aid that lists all correspondent names represented in this series.
||Gassner’s sizeable incoming correspondence is located in Series III. Recipient,
1925-1976, and is arranged alphabetically by the author’s name. A number of letters
are accompanied by return correspondence, usually written by either Gassner or
wife, Mollie. The correspondence helps to demonstrate both his career activities
personal relationships with numerous colleagues and friends over many years, both
individually or in connection with businesses or other organizations. His
correspondents include fellow critics, educators, and theatre professionals;
performers, playwrights, and other writers; publishers, presses, and journals;
theatre-related organizations; colleges, universities, and foundations; and students
and family members.
||Among the many notable correspondents are Edward Albee, Stella Adler, Dame Judith
Anderson, Robert Anderson, Brooks Atkinson, Julian Beck, S. N. Behrman, Eric
Bentley, Marc Blitzstein, John Mason Brown, Stanley Burnshaw, Witter Bynner, E.
Conkle, Clifton Fadiman, Angel Flores, Mordecai Gorelik, Paul Green, Theresa
Helburn, Lillian Hellman, Glenn Hughes, William Inge, Robinson Jeffers, Margo
Elia Kazan, Armina and Lawrence Langner, Arthur Miller, Sean O’Casey, Clifford
Odets, Arvid Paulson, Elmer Rice, George Bernard Shaw, Ellen Terry, Audrey Wood,
Louis Zukofsky. There is also substantial correspondence with publishers, including
Bantam Books, Thomas Y. Crowell Company, Crown Publishers, Inc., Dover Publications,
Dryden Press, and Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc. An Index of Recipients in this
finding aid lists all authors of correspondence to Gassner.
||Noteworthy items include a 1957 personal reference letter Gassner wrote for Arthur
Miller following Miller’s testimony before the House Un-American Activities
Committee (folder 64.5), and a file concerning the Southern Literary Festival
1964 (folder 70.3), with letters from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
||Series IV. Miscellaneous, 1921-1979, comprises Gassner materials that are not his
writings or correspondence, but instead are works by persons other than John
Gassner, Gassner personal papers, or correspondence between others, arranged
alphabetically by creator.
||John Gassner materials in this series include agreements and contracts, personnel
records, and a wedding announcement for daughter Caroline, along with other notes
and items not related to specific Gassner works or to unrealized projects.
||Much of the correspondence is written to or from Mollie Gassner after John Gassner’s
death in 1967, including condolences, permissions requests, and letters from former
Gassner publishers, colleagues, and students. There is also material for an
anthology of plays edited by Mollie Gassner, and writings about Gassner by others,
such as eulogies and memorial tributes.
||Other items of interest include Theatre Guild-related correspondence (a 1921 letter
from Eugene O’Neill to Lawrence Langner) and play reports for the Guild (written
Anita Bloch, Harold Clurman, Courtenay Lemon, Ludwig Lewisohn, and Louis
Migliorini). There are also a few letters and cards (one is a facsimile) written
George Bernard Shaw to various persons, likely collected by Gassner, who was a
member of the Shaw Society.
||Series V., Additional Materials, 1894-1983, is comprised chiefly of printed or near
print items withdrawn from the Gassner papers (Series I.-IV.) or library when
originally arranged and described. Materials in this series are generally magazine
and newspaper clippings or tearsheets, flyers, pamphlets, programs, and other
printed ephemera. Additional materials in this series represent a few acquisitions
received after card catalog description was completed, much of it additional printed
materials received from Mrs. Gassner. Most of this material was arranged by subject
or genre by Theatre Arts Collection staff and later described at box-level in
preliminary inventory (2002). For this new finding aid, the materials in this
are now arranged into six subseries: A. Works; B. Career and Personal Papers;
Plays; D. Programs; E. Subject Files; and F. Works by Others.
||Subseries A. Works, 1923-1975, is divided into Books, Articles, Plays, Poems, and
Projects, and each group arranged alphabetically by title. This subseries contains
printed clippings or tearsheets of Gassner writings or reviews of his works, forming
a valuable adjunct to the manuscripts in Series I., Works. For that reason, the
title index information for this subseries has been incorporated into the Index
Works in this finding aid.
||Among the Books, one especially valuable group of clippings is present for Dramatic Soundings, representing Gassner writings such
as columns grouped by journal title. There are also some other formats related
Gassner’s books, such as advertisements, publicity, dust jackets, and tearsheets,
even printed copies of Gassner works, with his handwritten markup for subsequent
||The Articles segment includes clippings of Gassner’s book reviews, columns, essays,
introductions, lectures, prefaces, reports, speeches, or transcripts of broadcasts.
There are a few typescripts present, most notably a 1940 play report for Arthur
Miller’s Children of the Sun.
||The Plays represent plays adapted, produced, or translated by Gassner and are chiefly
documented by programs, review clippings, and some incomplete play texts. The
include clippings of poems by Gassner, which are among some of his earliest
published writings. The Projects segment includes printed source materials gathered
for unrealized projects on various topics, including playwriting, Shakespeare’s
characters, speech, and two anthologies, one of poetry, another of science
||Subseries B, Career and Personal Papers, 1911-1983, mainly comprises printed
materials concerning Gassner’s career that are arranged by categories that document
his activities, such as awards judged or received, biographical and bibliographic
data, teaching and other employment (particularly for Yale University), the Gassner
papers and library acquired by the University of Texas, membership in various
organizations, photographs, and travel (especially a 1962 international trip).
||This subseries also contains a later acquisition of Gassner family correspondence,
including early letters to his wife Mollie and a slightly larger group written
his daughter Caroline. The letters were usually written by Gassner while traveling
and often detail where he was and what work he was doing. There are also two letters
outlining his funeral wishes in 1961 and 1964. Index entries for the Gassner family
correspondence have been added as appropriate to the Index of Letters, Index of
Recipients, or Index of Miscellaneous.
||A group of posthumous materials collected by Mollie Gassner includes obituaries and
memorial tributes, works and papers by a few of Gassner’s students, and
documentation of a number of awards given in Gassner’s memory by several different
||Subseries C. Plays, 1894-1964, contains published play texts in the form of
tearsheets removed from books or journals, now arranged alphabetically by title.
These were most likely used by Gassner while compiling anthologies and many include
his markup or annotations. Some, such as Sartre’s The
Flies and Strindberg’s A Dream Play,
provide good examples of Gassner’s working method. Also of note is a Stage for
Action typed mimeo script of "You’re next!: A political
playlet" by Arthur Miller, circa 1946. There are also a few bound
playscripts as well as other typescripts of plays, usually mimeo or other
reproductions. Separately published plays that were complete were removed and
transferred for addition to John Gassner’s other books held at the Ransom
||Subseries D. Programs, circa 1920-1973, gathers programs and souvenir programs,
chiefly for theatre productions, but also for some dance, opera, festivals, and
other performances. These are arranged by theatre. A number of these seem related
Gassner’s international trip in 1962, with eleven representing productions in
Turkey. There are also several programs for Theatre Guild productions. A few of
programs postdate Gassner’s death in 1967 and were collected by Mollie Gassner.
other programs received from Gassner were absorbed into the various Playbills
Programs Collections in the Theater Arts Collection some years ago.
||Subseries E. Subject Files, various dates (bulk 1920s-1960s), comprises printed
research materials filed into two groups: Theatre and Other. These are mainly
newspaper clippings and tearsheets from magazines, and occasionally entire issues
publications. These were probably compiled and used by Gassner for writing,
teaching, or anthology work. Other formats present in the files include a small
amount of correspondence, academic catalogs, offprints, memorial booklets, notes,
reports, announcements, brochures, flyers, press releases, pamphlets, printed
visuals, and book ads. A few subject files include photographs, and the theatre
files occasionally include theatre programs.
||The Theatre files are broken down into a series of geographical and topical files
that are arranged alphabetically, with the bulk of the geographical files focused
American and British theatre plus additional files for other countries and regions
around the world. The topical files include materials on subjects such as acting,
dance, design, a few specific theatre organizations, (including the Theatre Guild),
and a few individual playwrights (such as Samuel Beckett). There is a sizeable
of files concerning outdoor regional theatre in America as well as documentation
theatre education at academic and other institutions.
||The Other files reflect Gassner’s wide-ranging interests in a variety of non-theatre
topics, chiefly art and literature. The files are arranged alphabetically and
topics are frequently broken into subtopics by author, era, genre, country, or
region. Also represented, though to a lesser extent, are history, philosophy,
politics, and the social sciences. The subject files on radio include programs
number of plays broadcast on Theatre Guild on the Air
(1945-1951) and a large group of photographs of radio performers (bulk 1937-1938)
depict actors, band leaders (Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman),
comedians, musical groups (The Mills Brothers), news commentators, and singers.
||Subseries F. Works by Others, 1923-1972, contains works by others—many of them
Gassner colleagues or students—such as articles, reviews, and contributions to
books. The works are present as typescripts or duplicated typescripts, offprints
(sometimes inscribed or signed by the author), tearsheets from publications, and
clippings. These often bear Gassner’s markings, some of which may be due to his
editorial duties for journals and publishers such as Bantam. Some of the works
post-1967, reflecting posthumous items collected by Mollie Gassner. Because these
works are similar to the third-party works in Series IV. Miscellaneous, they have
been indexed in the Index of Miscellaneous.
||A fifth index, the Index of Additional Materials, includes index entries for special
format items located in the Plays, Programs, and Subject Files (Theatre Guild
programs and photographs of radio performers only).