Hello TLA Members and Friends!
We’re delighted to report that our annual event, which was held on Friday October 16th at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (LPA) was a triumphant success! For the first time, this year’s Book Awards ceremony was produced as part of LPA’s Public Programs Series. The event began with opening remarks from Evan Leslie, Artistic Producer for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Evan welcomed us warmly to the Café of the Library for the Performing Arts, speaking about the long history of interconnections between the Library and TLA, and the natural fit of the TLA Book Awards with the Library, which plays host to so many scholars conducting research on the Performing Arts.
Then former TLA President Kevin Winkler took the stage to present the Louis Rachow Distinguished Service in Performing Arts Librarianship Award to Karen Nickeson. Kevin has known Karen throughout her NYPL career, starting as a cataloger for the Jerome Robins Dance Division, and later working as both Assistant Curator and Curator of the Billy Rose Theatre Division. He spoke of her consistently excellent work and discussed her pioneering the use of standardized electronic finding aids at NYPL. In Karen’s acceptance speech she said that in a long and interesting career, what has meant the most to her has been having the opportunity to work with so many wonderful people.
Nancy Friedland, TLA’s current president was on hand to present the 2014 George Freedley Memorial Award for an exemplary work in the field of live theatre or performance to Arnold Aronson for Ming Cho Lee: A Life in Design. Nancy was delighted to present this award to Aronson, who is a longtime colleague of hers at Columbia University. She spoke about the high esteem he’s been held in by many years of Columbia Students. In his acceptance speech, Aronson paid homage to Ming Cho Lee, who was in the audience with his wife Betsey. He expressed his gratitude to Lee for the lifetime of great designs that inspired the book, and for the generous way Lee invited him into his home and gave him 150 hours of interviews.
Next up was TLA Board Member and Wall Award juror John Calhoun, to present the 2014 Richard Wall Special Jury Prize for an exemplary work in the field of recorded performance to Scott Eyman for John Wayne: The Life and Legend. While introducing Eyman—who had previously won the Wall Award for Empire of Dreams: The Epic Life of Cecil B. DeMille (2010)–John commended his book for its exemplary level of research, as well as for its genuine insight, and the heightened understanding it provides of Wayne’s life and work. I think everyone from TLA was deeply touched by Eyman’s kind words about how much it means to him to be honored by librarians, because the librarians who help him in his research have such a great impact on him. He also tantalized the audience by telling us about his next project, a book about the decades-long friendship between Henry Fonda and James Stewart.
Then John Calhoun came back to present the 2014 Richard Wall Memorial Award for an exemplary work in the field of recorded performance to Mark Harris for Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War. John praised Harris’s book, for its comprehensive research, engaging writing, and its emotional power in describing scenes like George Stevens filming the liberation of Dachau. When Harris got to the podium he noted that he had announced that this would be his next book while accepting the Wall Award for his previous book, Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood (2008) shared a wonderful story about his research process, when a librarian drew his attention to an unprocessed box of letters George Stevens had written to his family while stationed abroad making propaganda films during World War II. He said these letters provided him with the breakthrough he needed to understand Stevens’ enigmatic personality. He also mentioned how helpful George Stevens Jr. had been to him while working on the book, and he dedicated his award to the Stevens family.
After the Ceremony, many of our guests joined us for a reception, with delicious snacks generously donated by Grandaisy Bakery. Through the generosity of the Billy Rose Theatre Division, we were able to have original archival materials relating to the winning books on display: two stunning Ming Cho Lee set models, a souvenir program from the John Wayne vehicle The Alamo, and a scrapbook from the collection of The Best Years of Our Lives art director George Jenkins.
Congratulations again to all of this year’s winners, and thanks to everyone who helped make this memorable evening possible!
Member, Theatre Library Association Board of Directors
Co-Chair, Theatre Library Association Book Awards Committee
Photo credits: Evan Leslie, Artistic Producer for The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts