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Estimate: $ 6,000 - $ 9,000
(THEATRE.) BROWNELL, JOHN CHARLES. Archive of material relative to his play, "Mississippi Rainbow." Includes a copy of the script, a fragment with corrections, correspondence, photographs, and some ephemera; housed in two very large ring binders. should be seen New York, Chicago, Vp, 1927-1961
a small but rich archive chronicling the evolution of "Mississippi Rainbow" a comedy written for an all black cast by white playwright John Charles Brownell (1877-1961). The archive is arranged chronologically and begins with its earliest "try-outs" in Cleveland's Karamu House, with a five page, typewritten letter from Karamu co-founder Rowena Woodham Jelliffe (1892-1992). Ms Jelliffe, an African American social worker and pioneer in interracial theatre, suggests numerous changes and additions to the script, including a name change - from "Nothin' but Trouble" to "Brain Sweat." And so it was called when it opened on April 4, 1934 at New York's Longacre Theatre, with African American star Rose McClendon in the lead role. There is a fine portrait of Ms. McClendon (the cover photo from the Longacre program) as well as eight 8 x 10 sepia photographs of scenes from the play. New York Times theatre critic Brooks Atkinson, writes to Brownell and while he doesn't pan the play, he is unsurprisingly less than enthusiastic. This does not deter Brownell who changes the title once more to "Mississippi Rainbow, a Modern Comedy of Negro Life" (1935.) The play then opens in 1937 at the Princess Theatre, in Chicago.There are a number of letters from Shirley Graham, about the play and its successes, but ultimately about its failure to draw an African American audience. The archive contains several early photographs of Brownell, as well as a few random pieces of poetry and the author's own short autobiographical sketch.