Folger Shakespeare Library has acquired the theatrical archive of actress and playwright Lynn Redgrave (1943–2010). This collection of professional and family papers documents Redgrave’s extensive career on stage and screen, including a life-long interest in Shakespeare.
From Redgrave’s theatrical debut in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1962 through her successful Hollywood career and her own writing for the theatre in four deeply personal family plays—Shakespeare for My Father, The Mandrake Root, Nightingale, and Rachel and Juliet—the archive encompasses a variety of materials representing every stage of her career.
“Our mother would be so happy to know that her archive is being housed at the Folger,” said Redgrave's three children Ben, Pema, and Annabel Clark in a joint statement. “Her long association with the organization began with an invitation to present an evening of Shakespeare and family anecdotes, which inspired her to write her first play, Shakespeare for my Father. This marked the beginning of a new life and career as a playwright. We are deeply grateful to the Folger for keeping her legacy alive for future generations.”
Redgrave’s papers include scrapbooks documenting her early stage success as well as promptbooks and other production materials for her many plays, films, and work for television. The archive also contains materials related to her father, Sir Michael Redgrave, and an extensive correspondence with her mother, actress Rachel Kempson.
“The collection will be of particular interest for students of theater and film history, and especially those interested in the Redgrave family’s deep engagement with the work of William Shakespeare,” Stephen Enniss, Eric Weinmann Librarian of the Folger Shakespeare Library, said.
Among other items, the archive includes:
- A program from the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre tour to Moscow, 1958, with Michael Redgrave in Hamlet and other productions.
- Playbills from the Central School of Speech and Drama, 1959-61, which Lynn Redgrave attended. Three of the playbills show Lynn Redgrave in the cast.
- Nearly 200 handwritten letters from Rachel Kempson to Lynn Redgrave.
- Character books, scripts, correspondence, and publicity materials relating to Shine (1996); Gods and Monsters (1998), for which Redgrave received her second Oscar nomination; The White Countess (2005), and other films.
- Two scripts for Rachel and Juliet, together with playbills and press materials.
In addition to her distinguished career in the theater, Lynn Redgrave also served on the Board of Governors of the Folger Shakespeare Library. During her long association with the institution, she appeared on its stage many times. Her Tony-nominated 1991 play, Shakespeare for My Father, was first developed on the Folger stage, and her 2009 play about her mother, Rachel and Juliet, premiered at the Folger. Both of these autobiographical works—in addition to her plays The Mandrake Root and Nightingale—document the Shakespearean associations of her extended theatrical family.
Folger’s Director of Public Programs and Artistic Producer of Folger Theatre, Janet Griffin, who first invited Redgrave to the library, said: “From her first time here in 1991 through almost two decades, Lynn shared a warm friendship with us and with our audiences. We are very pleased to remember her rich legacy by having her papers at home in the Folger collection.”
The Folger Shakespeare Library’s collection includes extensive theatrical records, promptbooks, playbills, and manuscripts of leading directors and actors of the 18th–21st centuries. Particularly well represented are such stage figures as David Garrick, Sarah Siddons, Henry Irving, and Ellen Terry, as well as materials documenting the theatrical families the Keans, the Kembles, and the Booths. The library holds extensive records of London’s Drury Lane and Covent Garden theatres, while its theatrical holdings from the 20th century to the present document the enduring interest in Shakespeare’s works in our own time.