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Prepared by Nancy Birk, August 17, 1992; Prepared for the Web by Barbara Bass, April 5, 1996; Revised August 2005; Last Updated: February 2021
Inclusive Dates: 1937-1992
Extent: 3.5 cubic feet (2 record storage boxes, 1 document case, 2 oversized boxes)
Physical Location: 11th floor
Biographical Note: Arthur W. Lithgow was born on 9 September 1915 in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic to Arthur Washington and Ina Berenice Lithgow. He received his B.A. from Antioch College in 1938 and his M.A. from Cornell University in 1948. On 13 January 1939 he married Sarah Jane Price. They had four children. Lithgow first performed as a cherub in a Christmas pageant at the Unitarian Church in Melrose Massachusetts in December of 1920. He also appeared in student productions at Antioch College and made his New York debut as a soldier in Lorelei (Nov. 29, 1938). But his career focus has been on the teaching and directing of drama, particularly Shakespearian drama, and it is in this forum that he has left his stamp. He first began directing Shakespeare at Antioch College in 1952, when he became the Founder and Artistic Director of the Antioch Shakespeare Festival, or "Shakespeare under the Stars," as it came to be known. Within a period of six years, this festival produced all of the works of Shakespeare, bringing the attention and praise of even the Queen of England.
From Antioch, he began to expand his scope to include other areas of Ohio, directing simultaneously summer seasons in Toledo and Antioch. In 1958 he moved to Northern Ohio as Executive Director of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron Ohio. In 1960 he established the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival in Lakewood Ohio. In 1961, he moved to New Jersey to become the Artistic and Producing Director of the McCarter Theatre of Princeton University. he stayed there until 1972 when he moved to Boston as a Visiting Professor at the University of Massachusetts. From 1974-1975 he was the Administrator and Director of the Brattleboro Center for the Performing Arts, Brattleboro, Vermont. And in 1976 he became a Visiting Associate Professor of the Theatre Arts at the University of South Florida at Tampa. While there he began directing the Alice People Theatre. He returned to Antioch College to direct two summer Shakespeare festivals in 1981 and 1982. From 1982 to 1984 he taught at Sinclair Community College in Dayton Ohio. In Ithaca, New York, he co-founded the Ithaca Theater Guild. Arthur Lithgow died March 23, 2004, in Amherst, Massachusetts, at the age of 88.
Scope and Content: The bulk of the material documents Lithgow's directorships of various theatre companies in Ohio and constitute what he himself termed a "melange" of Shakespeare Festivals in Ohio. Included are archival materials from the Antioch Shakespeare Festivals, the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre, the Stan Hywet Shakespeare Festivals, and the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival. Non-Ohio theatre work is also well-represented with materials documenting productions at Princeton, Brattleboro Center, Provincetown Playhouse, and the University of South Florida among others. This collection will be a valuable resource to scholars pursuing research on Ohio theatre and Shakespearian theatre in America. It complements the department's vast holdings in 20th century theater. The collection would also be of value to film historians interested in the career of John Lithgow, the actor. John is the son of Arthur and Sarah Lithgow, and began his acting career in Akron at the Stan Hywet Shakespeare Festival. Of particular note is correspondence with New York critic Brooks Atkinson, playwright Arthur Miller and greetings sent to Lithgow from the Queen of England.
Acquisitions Note: The Arthur Lithgow papers were given to the Department of Special Collections and Archives of Kent State University on 11 July 1991 by Arthur and Sarah Lithgow.
Related Materials: Researchers are advised that an ancillary collection of Lithgow's papers can also be found in the Firestone Library Theatre Collection at Princeton University. The Antiochiana collection in the Antioch Library in Yellow Springs, Ohio also contains fuller files of Antioch productions from 1952 to 1957.
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Box 4: Oversized Scrapbooks
Box 5: Oversized Materials