The Lanford Wilson Collection

Tanya Berenzin, the renowned actress and one of the founders of Circle Repertory Company, donated Lanford Wilson`s estate to the University of Missouri Ellis Library Special Collections and Rare Books in 2012, per Wilson’s bequest. In the fall of 2017, Dr. David Crespy, the director of the Rimers of Eldritch, and his dramaturgy team spent many hours in the Special Collection to explore the archival materials on the Rimers of Eldritch. Some of those materials like the original script Wilson wrote for the Cherry Lane Theatre and his footnotes, among with pictures and other materials are included in the coming slides. This archive is a collection of correspondences, notes, production posters, awards, drafts of plays and production photos, as well was poetry, fiction, theatre artifacts.

Librarians and archivists in the Ellis Library, Michael Holland, Anselm Huelsbergen, Kelli Hansen, and others masterfully organized Lanford Wilson`s estate in eight series that include correspondence, printed and duplicated materials including posters, his works and manuscripts, a collection of other writer’s plays, an audio-visual collection, a collection of the awards he won during his career, miscellaneous materials like t-shirts and calendars, and lastly photographs. If you are interested in exploring the archive you can make an appointment online from the Ellis Library, Special Collection Library; make sure you obtain the boxes you want to use from the Lanford Wilson Collection index on the Ellis Library Website and add them to your appointment request.

One of the most valuable aspects of the Lanford Wilson Collection is the availability of several types of Wilson’s play manuscripts, providing insights into his writing process. Wilson would often walk around with a composition notebook with ideas for his plays, and these often would contain multiple ideas for plays – though some of the notebooks work out the details on entire plays. Featured in this display are some of Wilson’s early notes on The Rimers of Eldritch, a draft of his first act, and versions of the script as it moved from early production to pre-publication. The script was published as part of a collection, The Rimers of Eldritch and Other Plays, (MacMillan, 1967), then later a part of Lanford Wilson, Vol. 1: Collected Plays, 1965-1970 (Smith & Kraus, 1996). The MU Theatre production uses the Dramatist Play Service professional performance edition of the play (1998), which varies slightly from these previous editions.