The Mint Theater is a repertory company located in New York City. Originally founded in 1992 as an actor training company, the Mint shifted its focus three years later to staging historical dramas when Jonathan Bank became its executive director. Over the past twenty years, the Mint Theater has presented forty-four so-called “neglected” plays. It excavates buried theatrical treasures, reclaiming them for our time through research, dramaturgy, production, publication, and a variety of enrichment programs.1 With this mission, the value of research for performance becomes more apparent.
Theater directors and dramaturgs often research within library and archival resources. The Mint Theater’s approach is to never rewrite the plays, but to consider cuts to dialogue that have no connection to contemporary audiences.2 Making these types of decisions takes careful consideration of historical context and variations of a play’s scenes. This topic was explored in past collaboration with Theatre Library Association (TLA) activities. In 2007, they were a partner in TLA’s second Symposium on Performance Reclamation: Research, Discovery, and Interpretation.3
The Mint Theater is a TLA institutional member that invites individuals to interact with theater history through scholarship, programs, and performance reclamation: mounting lost or forgotten theater works. Speaking of the Mint Theater’s productions, Bank has said that “history is the lifeblood of everything. In our plays, we constantly tell people the story of history.”4 Mint Theater staff members continue to participate in the American Theater Archive Project (ATAP)5, present educational programs on theater with The New York Public Library (NYPL)6, as well as provide their own archival records for study. Their aim is to use the engaging power of the theater to excite, provoke, influence, and inspire audiences and artists alike.7
Their plays bring history forward and have received accolades such as an Obie Grant (2001), a special Drama Desk Award (2002), and the Theater History Museum’s Theatre Preservation Award (2010).8 Their presentation of John Van Druten’s 1931 play London Wall was the first Off-Broadway play to be broadcast in the WNET series, Theater Close-Up.9 In 2003, it presented the rarely staged The Daughter-in-Law, by D.H. Lawrence. It was named one of the best ten plays of the year by The New York Times.10
To learn more, view the Mint Theater’s production photos and videos on their website, watch productions live or at NYPL’s Theatre on Film and Tape Archive, read their 2002 book Worthy But Neglected: Plays of the Mint Theater Company, or peruse their ephemera in the NYPL performance archive.
–Selena Chau, MLIS
1 “About: Mission & History,” minttheater.org, retrieved June 14 2015, http://minttheater.org/about.php?tab=tab-1
2 Bruce Chadwick. “What Could Be a Better Place to Store History Plays than a Mint (Theater)?,” George Mason University History News Network, retrieved June 14 2015, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/136780#sthash.7OKRT7WX.dpuf
3 “Theatre Library Association, Symposium II,” tla-online.org, retrieved June 14 2015, http://www.tla-online.org/Symposia/symposiumtwo/
4 Bruce Chadwick. “What Could Be a Better Place to Store History Plays than a Mint (Theater)?,” George Mason University History News Network, retrieved June 14 2015, http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/136780#sthash.7OKRT7WX.dpuf
5 “ATAP Participants,” American Theatre Archive Project, retrieved June 14 2015, http://americantheatrearchiveproject.org/participants
6 “Meeting Molnár: The Mint Theater Company Explores the Archives of Ferenc Molnár,” NYPL.org, retrieved June 14 2015, http://www.nypl.org/events/programs/2015/03/23/meeting-moln%C3%A1r-mint-theatre-company-explores-archives-ferenc-moln%C3%A1r
7 “About Mint Theater Company,” facebook.com, retrieved June 14, 2015, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Mint-Theater-Company/73840567057?sk=info&tab=page_info
8 “About: Mission & History,” minttheater.org, retrieved June 14 2015, http://minttheater.org/about.php?tab=tab-1
9 Jonathan Mandell. “TV vs Theater: Off Broadway’s Mint Theater on WNET’s Theater Close-Up,” newyorktheater.me, retrieved June 14 2015, http://newyorktheater.me/2014/10/03/tv-vs-theater-mint-theaters-london-wall-on-wnets-theater-close-up/
10 Bruce Weber. “THEATER: THE HIGHS; The Plays And Players Of the Year,” nytimes.com, retrieved June 14 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2003/12/28/arts/theater-the-highs-the-plays-and-players-of-the-year.html