Actress Lynn Redgrave had a complicated relationship with Shakespeare. One of her earliest roles was at age 15 in a school production of “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream“ — which her father, distinguished actor Sir Michael Redgrave, walked out of. The scenario reverberated throughout Redgrave’s life, as she attempted to please her father while building a career in his footsteps. Her frustration culminated in a theatrical production about her childhood memories first staged at the Folger. That play, “Shakespeare For My Father,” went on to earn her a Tony nomination.
The Folger — where Redgrave once served on the Board of Governors — will be the permanent home of her personal papers and photographs, the library announced Monday. Redgrave’s scripts, handwritten letters, scrapbooks, playbills and other mementos offer insight into the actress and her famous family. (In addition to her father, her mother, Rachel Kempson, sister, Vanessa Redgrave, and nieces Joely Richardson, Natasha Richardson and Jemma Redgrave are all actors.)
Redgrave, who died in 2010 of breast cancer, is best known for her roles in the 1966 film ”Georgy Girl,” and the 1998 film “Gods and Monsters,” both of which earned her Oscar nominations. However, her Shakespearean bona fides are the focus of the collection, which includes a playbill of her father’s performance of “Hamlet” in Moscow and an early newspaper clipping that quotes her as saying, “I adore Shakespeare. When I was at Queen’s Gate School, Kensington, I sometimes played male parts because of my height.”
A 1994 Washington Post review of “Shakespeare for My Father” described the play as “a sort of exorcism” of Redgrave’s feelings about her distant and unloving father:
“The evening is a tribute, an accusation and an act of forgiveness. Redgrave says that as a child she felt that if she could get to know her father’s characters, she might get to know him. Here she approaches his memory in a variety of Shakespearean roles — as Cordelia, of course, that wronged daughter of Horatio pleading with the ghost of Hamlet not to flee; as Cleopatra, Richard II, Hamlet, Viola, Malvolio, Portia . . . She disappears behind those famous characters, that magnificent poetry.”
See some of the artifacts from Redgrave’s archive below:
Correction: A previous version of this blog post said that the archives would go to the Folger Theater. They will go to the Folger Shakespeare Library.