Gilbert Hemsley Papers, 1948-1980

Scope and Content Note

The Gilbert Hemsley Papers document his career as a lighting designer, production manager, and university professor. The majority of the collection consists of technical lighting production materials such as light plots, hanging plots, ground and section plans, blocking sheets, preset and cue sheets, track sheets, focus charts, electrics, cardboards, hook ups, cheat sheets, and color files. Other production materials such as synopses; scripts; vocal scores; librettos; scene breakdowns; equipment, costume, and prop lists; manifests; costume sketches; fabric swatches; set designs; budgets and financial materials; casting files; contracts; schedules; running and timing-sheets; performance reports; production notebooks; notes; reviews and clippings; playbills; correspondence; and miscellany are also included.

The production materials document Hemsley's involvement in the lighting design and stage management for numerous works of ballet, dance, opera, and theater. In addition to studying Hemsley's own career, the collection permits a study of various ballet, opera, and dance companies and the works they performed. The production materials also document international cultural exchanges with countries such as China, the Soviet Union, and Cuba. Files pertaining to other professional activities such as organizational meetings and conventions; professorial and teaching duties; and miscellaneous, fragmentary personal materials are also included. The collection has been organized in seven series: a General File, Ballet, Opera, Dance, Theater, Specials, and Oversize Plots, Plans, and Designs.

The GENERAL FILE consists of both personal and professional papers and contains the non-production-oriented records. The first section of this series is composed of general materials organized by record type. Correspondence includes both personal and professional communications with colleagues, family, and friends; some of these letters discuss specific productions on which Hemsley was then involved. Also included is an introduction to a proposed text on stage lighting which Hemsley was to co-author. The second section of this series contains academic and university files relating to his student career at Yale and his teaching career at Wisconsin. The Yale materials include essays; assignments including early designs and sketches; and a draft of his thesis, while the Wisconsin materials include student assignments and departmental memoranda, minutes, and notes. The third major section of the General File pertains to the various associations and organizations with which Hemsley was associated. Among these are the Association of Producing Artists, the McCarter Theatre, and the United Scenic Artists. Miscellaneous materials from conferences at which Hemsley spoke are also included. The final section in the series are assorted plots, plans, and technical information for miscellaneous theaters around the country.

The BALLET FILE is alphabetically arranged by ballet company and includes works of the American Ballet Theatre; the Australian Ballet; Ballet Folklorico de Mexico; Bolshoi Ballet and Bolshoi Dance Academy; the Eliot Feld Ballet; the Les Grandes Ballets Canadians; the National Ballet of Cuba; the Princeton Regional Ballet; the Royal Swedish Ballet; the Stuttgart Ballet; the Wisconsin Ballet Company and others. Arrangement thereunder varies and may be by season, place, production title, or record type. The series concludes with files relating to the summer 1975 Hurok Concert which consisted of tours of the Bolshoi Ballet, Bolshoi Opera, and the Stuttgart Ballet. The concert was planned as a package, and many of the files relate to more than one section of the tour. When possible, the files were separated by production type.

The OPERA series is arranged alphabetically by opera company with arrangement thereunder by production title. Among the companies represented are the Boston Opera Company (also known as the Opera Company of Boston), the Dallas Civic Opera Company, the Florida Symphony Society, the Greater Miami Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Lyric Opera Company, the Madison Civic Opera, the Metropolitan Opera Company, the New York City Opera, the Opera Society of Washington, D.C., the University of Wisconsin Opera, and others. Productions include works such as Aida, The Barber of Seville, Cosi Fan Tutte, The Crucible, Lucrezia Borgia, Porgy and Bess, Rigoletto, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, La Traviata, and War and Peace. Several operas were performed by more than one company and thus lend themselves to comparative study of Hemsley's techniques. The series ends with materials relating to Leonard Bernstein's Mass, a work originally commissioned for the opening of the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The work has been described as both theater and opera; however, for the purposes of this register, it has been organized with the opera materials.

The DANCE file documents the works of companies such as the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, the Glen Tetley Dance Company, the Joffrey II Dancers, Norman Walker and Dance Company, and the Performing Arts Company of the People's Republic of China. Arrangement is by company, or by production title if the company is unknown.

The THEATER series contains works of Broadway, regional, and university theater. Included are plays such as Adventures of the Black Girl in Her Search for God; Benito Cerno; Brecht, Sacred and Profane, Cyrano, The Headhunters, In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Jumpers, Love and Master Will, A Man for All Seasons, The Most Happy Fella, Murderous Angels, Nefertiti, Royal Hunt of the Sun, Sugar Babies, and War and Peace.

The OVERSIZE PLOTS, PLANS, AND DESIGNS focus on several productions plus miscellaneous building plans, a schedule, a lighting exam, and unidentified materials. Production-related materials have been cross listed in the appropriate section of the Contents List below.