by Doug Reside, Curator, Billy Rose Theatre Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center
Maestra, an organization recently founded by composer Georgia Stitt, seeks, in the words of their mission statement, “to give support, visibility, and community to the women who make the music in the musical theater industry.” As part of this work, Maestra affiliate Shoshana Greenberg created a really interesting timeline of musicals by women composers on Broadway.
One of the women featured on the timeline is Clare Kummer, a composer, playwright, and lyricist who was exceptionally prolific in the first decades of the 20th century. In a recent social media post, Stitt mentioned her interest in learning more about Kummer. Intrigued, I looked through our own collections here at the New York Public Library and found that, while her papers are preserved at Princeton University, we have quite a few of her scripts in the Theatre division of NYPL.
When I mentioned this online, others expressed a great deal of interest in making her work more visible. A small group of enthusiasts has begun to transcribe Kummer’s scripts; we are also trying to track down her scores and hope to organize performances of her work at the Library in the near future. If you are interested in joining this work, please email me at [email protected].
The first edition of Kummer’s work created by this team is the libretto of the 1921 musical,The Choir Rehearsal. The team, including Alex Greenberg and Sarah Whitfield, transcribed the Samuel French edition (available from The Internet Archive) into Google Docs, which we then used to produce PDF, TXT, and DOCX versions. Whitfield, a musical theatre scholar from the United Kingdom, also researched the play and wrote the introduction below an NYPL guest blogger.
It is my hope that this represents the first in several editions of Kummer’s work we will release as part of a reboot of the Musical of the Month series (which started in 2011 but has been on hiatus for several years).
Download the libretto and/or read the informative essay about Clare and her work by Sarah Whitfield HERE at the NYPL website.