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COLLECTION Identifier: MC 958; Vt-206; MP-68

Papers of Bobbi Ausubel, 1965-1990 (inclusive), 1966-1974 (bulk)

Scripts, reviews, flyers, posters, writings, and production notes of feminist playwright, theater director, and co-founder of the Caravan Theatre Bobbi Ausubel.

Dates

  • 1965-1990
  • Majority of material found within 1966-1974

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research. An appointment is necessary to use any audiovisual material.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in scripts written by Stan Edelson and Bobbi Ausubel is held by Bobbi Ausubel during her lifetime. Upon her death, copyright will be transferred to Rivka Solomon and upon Solomon's death, copyright will be transferred to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in the other papers created by Bobbi Ausubel is held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the Schlesinger Library. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Permission to photocopy and/or produce entire original scripts by Stan Edelson and Bobbi Ausubel must be sought in writing from Ausubel during her lifetime and, upon her death, from Rivka Solomon. Other papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.

Extent

1.46 linear feet ((3 +1/2 file boxes) plus 1 folio folder, 1 folio+ folder, 1 oversize folder, 1 supersize folder, 2 photograph folders, 1 videotape, 1 motion picture, 1 archived web site)

The papers of Bobbi Ausubel primarily document the activities of the Caravan Theatre, which she established with her then husband Stan Edelson. Very little personal material is included. The collection includes playbills; scripts (including How to Make a Woman); reviews and articles (about Caravan Theatre and later productions, e.g. Union Sister productions); publicity and casting announcements; sketches of performances; production notes and notes on members of the Caravan Theatre company; interviews with members of Caravan Theatre company; board meeting minutes; reports on productions and their success, issues, and objectives; photographs; printed material about the feminist movement and feminist theater; a VHS tape of the film version of How to Make a Woman, and a motion picture interview of Ausubel. Of particular note are dismantled scrapbooks documenting the early years of the theater; the theater's "important documents," which detail the company's objectives for several productions; and an essay Ausubel wrote on her impressions of women in Poland. Ausubel's web site is being captured periodically as part of Schlesinger Library's web archiving program.

The collection is arranged alphabetically. The bulk of the folder headings were created by the archivist; Ausubel's original headings, when used, appear in quotation marks.

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be digitized and available online.

BIOGRAPHY

Barbara "Bobbi" Ausubel grew up in Brooklyn, New York. She received a bachelor's degree in biology from Brooklyn College in 1957 and an MS in Genetic Biology from Harvard University in 1961, before shifting her focus to theater. She received her MFA in theater (directing) from Boston University in 1967 and was the recipient of a Radcliffe Fellowship in 1972. In 1955, she married Stan Edelson and adopted his last name. She resumed using her birth name around 1970. She and Edelson had two children and separated or divorced in the mid-1970s.

In 1965, Ausubel and Edelson co-founded the Caravan Theatre. The theater was initially a summer work project of the American Friends Service Committee, but eventually became an independent entity, performing experimental theater. The company performed at venues including the Harvard Epworth Church in Cambridge and also toured both nationally (in a school bus) and internationally, traveling to Poland as part of the International Polish Experimental Theatre Festival. Some of Caravan's productions were collaborative works put together by company members, while others were works by well-known playwrights, such as Jean Genet, Samuel Beckett, and Bertolt Brecht. The company shared Brecht's view that theater should prompt the viewer to develop critical perspective and the ability to recognize and combat social injustice. With these goals in mind, Caravan performed plays focusing on issues such as racism, gay and women's liberation, and the anti-war movement. The theater received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Massachusetts Council of the Arts, and the Association for the Performing Arts.

One of the theater's most successful productions was How to Make a Woman, which was directed by Ausubel and first performed in 1967. In an essay on the history of the Caravan Theatre, Ausubel says of this play, "At a Caravan planning meeting in my living room in January 1967, before the women's movement was dreamed of, I said, 'I want to do a play about what it's like to be a woman in this culture, and it is different from being a man.' The men were supportive and the women cool, not wanting to be classified as 'women,' but as 'people.'" The play opens in a dress shop where two male characters (the Hunter and the Wolf) attempt to sell dresses, or traditional gender roles, to two women. In the course of the play, topics such as rape and the unfulfilled housewife are highlighted, with one of the women accepting the controlling power of men and the limited options offered to her, while the other woman resists and ultimately breaks free. The initial reaction to this play was relatively muted but changes in the social and political climate led to a stronger reaction when the company performed a revised version in 1968. Ausubel notes, "The play made Caravan into a center of feminist energy in Boston." The cast and crew led discussions after each performance of the play and many audience members were prompted to start consciousness raising groups. The success of these post-play discussions led Ausubel and Edelson to develop a series of workshops in which participants could further examine gender roles and relationships. The play was performed for several years and later made into a movie, starring members of the Caravan company.

Other popular productions included Suppose I Fall, Focus on Me (by Ausubel), Family (a collaborative work by the company), and Tell Me a Riddle (adapted from the short story by Tillie Olsen). Suppose I Fall, Family, and Tell Me a Riddle were all included on "ten best" lists for 1972-1973, 1976, and 1977, respectively; Arthur Friedman also included Edelson among his best directors for 1972-1973. Caravan ceased production in 1978, although a production of Fossils, Relics and Treasures of Family Life in the 1970's (based on Caravan's Family) was performed in 1979 by the Arc Theatre, an extension of Caravan. Caravan put on one final play in 1986: Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle which they had first performed in 1970. Ausubel subsequently directed plays for a variety of other theatrical companies, including Union Sister Productions, focusing on plays and companies with feminist or socially-conscious bents. She taught at the Boston Conservatory for a number of years and was also actively involved with the organization That Takes Ovaries!

Physical Location

Collection stored off site: researchers must request access 36 hours before use.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2007-M137, 2011-M60

The papers of Bobbi Ausubel were given to the Schlesinger Library by Bobbi Ausubel between July 2007 and March 2011.

Processing Information

Processed: August 2018

By: Susan Earle, with assistance from Ashley Thomas.
Link to catalog
Title
Ausubel, Bobbi. Papers of Bobbi Ausubel, 1965-1990 (inclusive), 1966-1974 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Author
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Sponsor
Processing of this collection was made possible by Ware Acquisitions Fund at the Schlesinger Library and the Archival Processing Fund.
EAD ID
sch01617

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future.

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