New Glarus Swiss Festivals Collection, 1986-2000



Phillip Zarrilli led the fieldwork represented in this collection. Then a professor of Theater and Drama at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an active member of the Folklore Program, he specialized in South Asian folk/vernacular drama and performance arts. Deborah Neff, then a graduate student in Anthropology, conducted extensive fieldwork from 1986-1989, and with Zarrilli produced an educational documentary video and a 48-page booklet about New Glarus, Wisconsin's Wilhelm Tell Festival for its 50th anniversary. Zarrilli and Neff did most of the videography and interviews with extra camera help from University of Wisconsin-Madison students Jerry Berndobler and Brad Bornemann. Ric Segovia added to the collection in 1999-2000 by interviewing four actors from the Tell play, videotaping the Tell performance, taking color photographs of the play, and writing a descriptive research paper about his fieldwork.

Project History

At the time he conducted his fieldwork, Zarrilli lived in the New Glarus area and was fascinated by the New Glarus community's commitment to the Tell drama's annual performance in German and in English. The Tell play's impending 50th anniversary was a further spark to document the event. From the hours of fieldwork, Zarrilli and Neff produced the 50-minute educational documentary video Backstage/Frontstage about New Glarus and its festivals, for Folklore Program class use, and a 48-page booklet about the Wilhelm Tell play and its history, Wilhelm Tell in America's “Little Switzerland,” New Glarus, Wisconsin (Onalaska, Wisconsin: Crescent Printing Company, 1987). Zarilli produced the video with funding from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Folklore Program's three-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant to improve its curricular offerings.