American Laboratory Theatre Collection
The American Laboratory Theatre, sometimes referred to as the 'Lab', was founded in 1923 in New York City, New York as both a professional theatrical group and a school. The collection consists mostly of administrative correspondence, as well as production programs, photographs, newspaper clippings, and some student files, all related to the school's efforts. Also in the collection are some secondary research materials about the theatre and school.
- 1923-1982 (bulk 1925- 1930)
- American Laboratory Theatre (New York, N.Y.) (Organization)
Conditions Governing Access
No access restrictions
Conditions Governing Use
Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.
History of the American Laboratory Theatre
The American Laboratory Theatre, sometimes referred to as the 'Lab,' was founded in 1923 in New York City, New York as both a professional theatrical group and a school. It was a privately funded conservatory that did not receive public funding. The school, called the Theatre Arts Institute, was noted for its use of the Stanislavsky method, a precursor to the American Method style of acting.
Notable figures such as Stella Adler, Lee Strasberg, and Francis Fergusson were trained at the school, some of whom have correspondence within the collection. Richard Boleslavsky was acting director for much of the group's life. He, along with instructor Maria Ouspenskaya, helped to found the Lab after previously working for the Moscow Theatre. Elizabeth Bigelow served as general secretary for the organization.
The theatre functioned until 1930. The school continued until 1933, when it also ceased operations.
5.25 Linear Feet (7 boxes + 3 oversize boxes, 6 volumes )
Scope and Contents
The American Laboratory Theatre collection has been arranged in four series: Administrative records; Production-specific materials; Student applications and correspondence; and Secondary materials from Ronald Willis' research and from other researchers who consulted the collection.
The collection consists mostly of administrative correspondence, as well as production programs, photographs, and newspaper clippings related to the theatre's and school's efforts to train students and produce plays.
Much of the collection concerns the Lab's finances and efforts to gain patrons, as well as plans for the newly renovated location in 1927. Student applications and scholarship inquiries are also included.
Ronald Willis was a faculty member at the University of Kansas, teaching in the Theatre Department for 30 years. He gathered and used the materials in this collection for his doctoral dissertation from the University of Iowa. The collection includes his dissertation and secondary writings concerning the Lab. He also allowed other researchers to use the material, and their correspondence and material groupings remain in the collection.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift, Marie Willis, 2016.
Most of collection treated for mold in 2017.
- Guide to the American Laboratory Theatre Collection
- American Laboratory Theatre Collection
- Finding aid prepared by bas, 2017. Finding aid encoded by bas, 2017. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2020.
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Finding aid written in English.
- Finding aid permalink
- Preferred citation
American Laboratory Theatre Collection, MS 338, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.