Wednesday, November 23, 2011

See Every Show You Ever Missed!! — The TOFT Archive

[post 215]

Okay, so I exaggerate ever so slightly, but I do want you all to know about TOFT, the Theatre on Film & Tape Archive at the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts, which I mentioned in my previous post. Located at Lincoln Center, it is definitely something to be grateful for this Thanksgiving!

Even if you live in New York, you're going to miss a lot of "must-see" shows for one reason or another. And then there are the shows that you would love the chance to see again, to study from a professional perspective, rewinding and replaying key sequences.

Well, your prayers are answered:

Since 1970, TOFT has preserved live theatrical productions and documented the creative contributions of distinguished artists and legendary figures of the theatre. With the consent and cooperation of the theatrical unions and each production's artistic collaborators, TOFT produces video recordings of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional theatre productions as well as dialogues between notable theatre personalities.

You heard it right. Thousands of theatre shows — and it's free!

Take for example that famous 1988 Mike Nichols production of Waiting for Godot at Lincoln Center starring Steve Martin, Robin Williams, F. Murray Abraham, and Bill Irwin. I was teaching at Juilliard at the time, so I was lucky to get to see it. Most people didn't, however, including a lot of angry Lincoln Center subscribers; the theatre was too small, the run too short. But all is not lost: the show was videotaped and you can sit and watch it, over and over again if you like, just by visiting the library.

And speaking of Bill Irwin, let's use his work as an example. Here's a partial list of videos featuring him available at TOFT:

1981: Bill Irwin Sketches
1981: Not Quite / New York
1982: Regard of Flight
1984: Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Fo)
1985: The Courtroom
1987: As Seen on TV
1988: Waiting for Godot (Bill as Lucky)
1989: Largely New York
1992: Texts for Nothing (Beckett)
1993: Fool Moon
1995: The Tempest
1996: Dialogue with Bill Irwin and David Shiner
1997: Scapin (Molière)
1998: A Flea in Her Ear (Feydeau; directed by Bill)
2003: The Harlequin Studies
2004: Mr. Fox—A Rumination
2004: Bill Irwin, Clown Prince (documentary)
2005: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
2009: Waiting for Godot (Bill as Vladimir)

This list is partial because the online catalog is not complete, and because I've omitted dozens of clips of Bill performing at benefits, tributes, and award ceremonies. But you get the idea.

So let's say you want to use the archive... what do you do?
• Search the archive online first and choose what you want to view
• Call (212-870-1642) and make an appointment; you'll need to tell them your choice of videos
• Go there (no, you can't take out any of these items)

Once there, you can see the larger print catalog, with even more goodies.

Click here for details on using the online catalog. Basically the idea is that you have to search the entire NY Public Library catalog found at The items with a call number starting with NCOV, NCOX, or NCOW are available in the TOFT archive.

One catch: the archives are not meant for the general public, but for those doing serious research. No, you don't need to be writing a book. Performers studying performance qualify, but make yourself sound important!

So... what's not to like?

Don't live anywhere near New York? Now you have yet another reason to visit!

Happy Thanksgiving all. Eat too much, but do try to appreciate all the good that's being done by so many on so many fronts!

1 comment:

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