Kingston University launch the Stephen Sondheim Society Collection at Kingston’s Rose Theatre

Kingston University are delighted to announce their newest archival collection- the Stephen Sondheim Society Archive.  This collection is being announced to the press and the public at the Rose Theatre in Richmond on 5th July. The collection is a treasure trove of musical theatre memorabilia capturing highlights of the career of renowned composer Stephen Sondheim, who has composed many well known musicals, including West Side Story, Company, Follies and Sweeney Todd.  The Stephen Sondheim Society was established in 1993 to celebrate, promote and educate others regarding the work of Sondheim, and has collected together a large amount of archival material to support this aim.

The focus of the collection is on the ‘ephemera’ of theatre, such as programmes, posters, and publicity materials.  The core of the Society Archive was originally compiled by theatre collector and Sondheim enthusiast Peter Wood, and was then sold to the Society in 2008. Since then the Society has added a great deal more material on subsequent Sondheim productions, and continues to collate material to add to the Collection. There are also few unusual pieces- amongst the Sweeney Todd related material is a promotional apron from the original 1979 Broadway production, as well as the oldest item in the collection – an illustrated pamphlet of the Sweeney Todd tale dating from 1842.  There is also an early 1900’s illustrated copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the inspiration for Into the Woods.

By holding and giving access to the material here at Kingston University Archives and Special Collections, we hope to bring the collection to a wider audience.  The Collection fits in well with the other theatre collections we already hold, such as the Sheridan Morley Theatre Collection and David Heneker Archive.  Chairman of The Sondheim Society David Ovenden said the songwriter’s work represented a significant high point in musical theatre, but stressed it was also important that he was recognised as part of a wider family of composers. “We’re very keen that Stephen’s work is seen in relation to his predecessors and successors,” he said. “Kingston University’s existing theatre archives, and the links it has with other collections, will help to place his work in context.”

Sondheim-Group-photo-2012

Left to right; Katie Giles (Kingston University Archivist); Stephen Sondheim; David Ovenden (Chairman, Stephen Sondheim Society); Lynne Chapman (Secretary, Stephen Sondheim Society)

Stephen Sondheim himself was surprised at the amount of material accumulated and was very supportive of efforts to preserve the collection. “I am delighted that Kingston University has taken on the task of collating and conserving the considerable amount of material collected by The Stephen Sondheim Society and its members over many years,” he said. “This work will ensure that the material will be available to academics, theatre practitioners and the public for study and research, and for just plain curiosity, for years to come.”

A large amount of the material is box listed, while listing and repackaging is underway on the rest.  Soon full cataloguing will begin with records appearing on our online catalogue, while books and audio visual material will be listed on our library catalogue.  We will post any updates on progress here.  There will also be an exhibition of items from the Collection in July.  Any researchers wishing to enquire about the Collection should email  archives@kingston.ac.uk .