ASU Child Drama Collection Expands Reach to Academics

September 20, 2017

Archive of costume innovator Irene Corey – who created Barney looks to biblical characters – to feature a searchable list

Arizona State University’s Children’s Drama Collection is the world’s largest, most used and renowned youth theater repository, according to university officials.

It attracts academics, playwrights, performers, and students from around the world to study its costumes, screenplays, drawings, and ephemera – but the reach of one of its most prized parts has been limited to those who could. go to the Hayden Library in Tempe.

By the end of the year, however, a list of the contents of the Irene Corey collection will be available to everyone online. Then, Katherine Krzys thinks, “people will come in droves.”

“Irene Corey literally changed the face of costume and makeup design,” said Krzys, who among other roles – archivist, actress, director, author and historian – is the curator of the Child Drama Collection.

“All of these innovations are visually documented and printed in its archives for researchers and artists to discover. It is a unique source that will inspire generations of new theater artists.

Irene Corey and Barney, one of his most famous creations.

For more than half a century, Corey has designed costumes, sets and makeup for shows as diverse as theater classics and theme park characters. Corey became known nationally for the “Book of Job” in the 1950s, which spanned 22 years around the world.

She also designed the costumes for the TV show “Barney and Friends” (including the friendly dinosaur purple color) and helped create the first Chick-fil-A cows and the Bookworm from Half Price Books. Many in the field also believe that without Corey’s visionary work, audiences would not have seen “Cats” or “Lion King” on Broadway.

Items in the collection include Corey’s innovative costumes for “The Tempest” and “The Book of Job”, animal make-up renderings, production photographs, costume renderings, and his historical and cultural research records. .

“Irene was really in the process, and when you look at this collection you’re going to see little ideas on the backs of the menus, on the backs of the envelopes,” Krzys said. “Its process is the most important thing the collection can tell you.”

It may also tell you that Corey’s lifelong work is worth a pretty pennyCorey died of Parkinson’s disease in 2010. She was 84 years old.. Originally valued at $ 200,000 at the time of its donation in 1995, it is now possible that the collection is worth millions, said Lynda Xepoleas, an art history major at ASU. Art schoolThe School of Art is a unit within the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. and help in the ASU Library Conservation Lab.

“I’ve worked on a Marc Chagall costume show before, and he and Irene Corey were leading artists in their respective fields,” said Xepoleas, who works with Krzys to preserve the costume part of the collection. “The things I see in Irene’s collection are just as impressive as what I saw in her exhibit.”

Over the past few months, Xepoleas has created hanging and boxed storage for costumes, accessories, masks, wands, headdresses, belts and gloves. She said working with these items gave her insight into Corey’s creative process.

“She wanted these costumes and accessories to be seen from a distance rather than functional,” said Xepoleas. “Witnessing history up close has been very rewarding for me. “

Krzys said it took over a decade to convince Corey to donate his papers to ASU.

“I personally went to pack her papers in her art-filled home in Dallas – find costumes in the crawl space of her outdoor studio, renderings under the buffet in her dining room – everywhere she had it. space, ”Krzys said. “The process was filled with laughter, amazing stories, designer tips and a lifelong friendship.”

The Irene Corey Collection is part of the Child Drama Collection, the world’s largest compilation documenting the international history of children’s theater since the 16th century.

It was created at ASU in 1979 by librarian Marilyn Wurzburger, head of special collections, and Lin Wright, chair of the theater department at ASU. They jointly recommended the development of a children’s drama collection in response to the academic needs of students and teachers of youth theater at ASU and the research needs of professional artists and educators around the world.

Deanna Dent / ASU video now

The first collection donated to the university, Wurzburger said, was from Rita Criste, a professor of children’s theater at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Who donated her papers and books to the KNEW.

“All university libraries like to stand out because they know it will give them a certain prestige. They know people will come from all over the world to view a collection, ”said Wurzburger, who started at ASU in 1960 and retired in 2009.

Among those people was John Newman, a theater professor at the University of Utah Valley, who brought four theater students with him in July to view the collection. The students recently received a grant to research and develop a new play for the Utah Children’s Theater called “Builders of America,” based on several historical American figures.

“The students were so engaged in the research that it was difficult to take them away from the process,” Newman said. “We were greeted by the character Job, who wore an original Irene Corey costume, and it was a great introduction to the collection.”

Newman added that the collection captured the imagination of every one of his students – a designer, a playwright, a director and a playwrightA playwright is a professional writer / editor in a theater or opera company who is primarily engaged in the research and development of plays or operas..

“Kathy was able to find something that appealed to their individual or found a tangent that extended their interest,” Newman said. “It was an exceptional experience. “

Ashley Laverty, a graduate of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts School of Film, Dance and Theater, MA in Fine Arts, Youth Theater Program, said she had spent a good deal of his academic career browsing the collection, drawing inspiration from his work.

“I used the collection fairly regularly during my three years in senior school at ASU, and it was a huge resource for me,” said Laverty, who now works for the Rose Theater, a premier venue for the performing arts in Omaha, Nebraska. “I’m lucky to have been on a program where I could literally ask Kathy for a play and she knows how to get it. “

Wurzburger said that once a university starts building a collection, others start to notice.

“People are starting to think, ‘I wish my papers were next to these,'” Wurzburger said. “When you get off to a good start, there is hope that you can build on that. “

Wurzburger was able to build on the collection thanks to a key recruit she made in 1985 by bringing in Krzys, who was then a graduate research assistant in the ASU MFA Theater for Youth program. Krzys said she had a job at a children’s theater in San Francisco after she graduated with her masters degree. She said she had to write an article on research methods and came across the collection of children’s dramas.

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