Item of the Week: Lark Taylor’s Promptbooks

Published: February 4, 2010

In 1923, Mr. Clark purchased a set of promptbooks made by actor Lark Taylor, documenting the Shakespearean productions of Julia Marlowe and E.H. Sothern in which Taylor took part.  Until last year, however, these volumes had never been cataloged.  (Oops!)  Now however, they are cataloged and discoverable through UCLA’s online library catalog and via the Online Archive of California.

Created at some point probably years after these productions took place, Taylor documents the casts, stage directions and edits for the Southern and Marlow plays he acted in from 1906-1911.  In a couple of the volumes, he also includes information about the 1887-1900 productions starring Ada Rehan, which he also acted in. The plays included are As You Like It, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing and, pictured here,  Twelfth Night.

As above, the text is very heavily edited and annotated by Taylor, marking everything from music cues, to stage directions, to blocking, as in the diagram below.

All of five of Lark Taylor’s Shakespearian promptbooks are from a uniform edition of Shakespeare’s plays, but all of the identifying information and title pages have been removed from the books.  They’ve also been rebound from whatever their original bindings were, and unprinted pages (like the one above) have been interspersed throughout the books.

Taylor, born John Lark Taylor in Nashville in 1881, had a long career as a stage actor.  He died in 1946 in Nashville, and a collection of his papers is held by Vanderbilt University.

All images above from “Prompt book of Twelfth night by William Shakespeare with cuts and business as played by E.H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe. Made by Lark Taylor.”  MS.1923.001, vol. 3.  William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, UCLA.

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