On Friday, October 17th, at the New York Pubic Library for the Performing Arts, TLA hosted a wonderful evening of celebration and discussion. We celebrated the recipients of our multiple awards and enjoyed a panel presentation entitled Women in Film.
The evening began with our Annual Business Meeting. I had a chance to report on the activities of the association. It was a wonderful year for TLA. A few of the highlights — the SIBMAS TLA Conference was a great success, our new website launched in July to outstanding reviews, and the PAR 30 volume entitled Holding Up the Mirror: Authenticity and Adaptation in Shakespeare Today Symposium Proceedings was published.
Following the Annual Business Meeting, we honored the recipients of the TLA Awards. Selena Chau, MLIS student at San Jose State University, received the Brooks McNamara Performing Arts Librarian Award. Selena noted that the process of writing the essay for consideration allowed her to “reflect on the uniqueness of performing artists and performing arts scholars that use library services.” Selena was unable to join us in New York City for the event but we look forward to her becoming an active member of TLA. Congratulations to Selena! The Louis Rachow Distinguished Service Award honored Jacqueline Davis from New York Public Library for the Performing Arts (LPA). Jackie delivered a wonderful note of thanks and reflected on her continued work at LPA. With this award, TLA acknowledged her outstanding record of leading LPA through many new initiatives and challenges. LPA continues to be the preeminent performing arts library.
We were delighted to have the return of the Book Awards recognizing outstanding achievement for works published in 2013. The Freedley Award for scholarship on performance was awarded to Alisa Solomon for her book entitled Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof. The Wall Award for scholarship on recorded performance was awarded to Glenn Frankel for his book The Searchers: The Making of an American Legend.
We were delighted to have both authors in attendance. Rachel Shteir, a former Freedley winner and now juror for the Freedley Award, provided a lovely introduction for Alisa. John Calhoun, a Wall juror, was delighted to introduce Glenn. Both authors expressed how honored they were to receive this recognition and spoke passionately about their countless hours working in archives. They both acknowledged the work of archivists, curators and librarians as essential to their research and scholarship.
The two Special Jury Prizes were also recognized: Fosse by Sam Wasson and Still: American Silent Motion Picture Photography by David Shields.
Congratulations to Alisa, Glenn, Sam and David!
The next event was a panel discussion on a topic related to the work of TLA and performing arts libraries and archives. This year we focused on Women in Film. Our panelists included Kathryn Hearst, Mark Newton and Bette Gordon. Kathryn discussed the absence of the women film pioneers in the curriculum. She profiled several of the many women who worked in the film industry during the silent era – not just in the United States. She argued that they are systematically left out of the teaching of early cinema. At the college level, early cinema classes generally include the developments in filmmaking by Edison, Porter, D.W. Griffith, among others, but rarely, if ever, mention the women pioneers who dynamically contributed to the industry both in front of and behind the camera. Drawing on this topic, Mark Newton gave us the background on the open access digital resource Women Film Pioneers Project. He discussed how the project came into being as a scholarly work. The WFPP documents the lives and contributions of women working in the film industry during the silent era – the women who worked behind the camera in every capacity of filmmaking. Bette Gordon discussed women filmmakers today and acknowledged it is still a difficult industry for them. The statistics identifying the number of women in the industry are distressing. Bette called for women filmmakers to be activists – essentially to be strong and forceful. She also called for those women in the industry to support each other through networking and other activities. By working together, they can build the necessary support — even through efforts to drive up box office receipts during the first weekend release by coordinating attendance en masse!
The panel on Women in Film highlighted that after more than 100 years, women still face challenges in this industry. Their contributions, however, as documented by the Women Film Pioneers Project and by the successes and persistence of women filmmakers today, are significant and essential.
The panel discussion was followed by sparkling wine, small bites (thank you to Granddaisy Bakery for donating such delicious food!) — and discussion. I am delighted that most folks remained to continue the conversation.