Thursday, January 21, 2010

John Ashbery: Everyman!

When I initiated a project to digitize and preserve the audio poetry archive at Harvard's Woodberry Poetry Room back when I was the curator, there were a lot of heavy-duty technical and funding obstacles - they said it couldn't be done!  Now, after years of work and thanks to my terrific (and patient) colleagues at Harvard College Library, treasures from that collection are finally being made available!  I'm especially delighted that a particularly rare WPR gem, a recording of the February 26, 1951, production of John Ashbery's one-act play, Everyman (or Everyman: a Masque), can now be heard thanks to a partnership with PennSound.   As described there, the performance -

was one of four that evening — the inaugural event for Cambridge's Poets' Theatre, organized by V. R. ("Bunny") Lang — alongside Frank O'Hara's Try! Try!, Richard Eberhart's The Apparition and Lyon Phelps' Words in No Time, and a collaborative spirit permeates the evening's events, with the poets' classmate (and O'Hara's dormmate) Edward Gorey providing costumes and sets, O'Hara composing the incidental music for Ashbery's play, Ashbery starring in O'Hara's play, and so forth. Directed by Mary Manning, Everyman's cast consisted of Connaught O'Connell as Columbine, David Bowen as Everyman and Jerry Kohn as Death. To date, the play has never appeared in print, though a brief except, "Song from a Play," was published in the Harvard Advocate in 1948, and later appeared in "Special Portfolio: John Ashbery Tribute," in Conjunctions #49 (2007).

Click here to hear it! 

And speaking of rare recordings... click here to hear James Schuyler, recorded at the Chelsea Hotel in New York in 1986, and at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1989, thanks to the Poetry Foundation.

P.S.  Yes, there is also a recording of Frank O'Hara's "Try! Try!" presented on the same occasion as the JA.


Bobby said...

I'm sure you know this, Don, but others might like to know that Mary Manning was Susan and Fanny Howe's mother.

Kent Johnson said...

I love Ashbery, as I guess everyone now does, but very time I see that photo, it reminds me of The Shining.

Don Share said...

Oddly, it reminds me of Harvard Yard, which on the last day I saw it was in bloom, as in that photo - with a hawk in a tree about to eat a squirrel.