Strings Attached – The Marionettes of Molka Reich

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SC&A’s Federal Theatre Project Collection is home to a lot of unsual and fascinating pieces. At the request of a patron, I recently went through the Molka Reich Collection and found several interesting photographs.  Molka Reich led a most unusual life. After studying puppetry under Remo Bufano in New York, she and her husband found themselves in Miami in 1930. While there, she joined the Federal Writers Project, and then the Federal Theatre Project. She soon formed a marionette unit with several others. They made the marionettes themselves, and traveled around the state performing for children and adults in school.

Marionette Woman

We went to places where no one had ever seen anything like this, had absolutely never seen anything…but they were so enthralled and it was marvelous for the children. And the adults loved it just as much…We’d go into these schools, particularly the underprivileged schools. At first everything was free but after a while a charge was made. We would divide the money on a 60/40 basis…The underpriviledged schools paid nothing. The money was used by the P.T.A. for the children’s luncheon program.

The above quote, taken from the oral history interview conducted with Molka by George Mason University’s Oral History Program in 1977, really demonstrates the community-oriented spirit of the Federal Theatre Project and those involved. Aside from being a master puppeteer, Molka also acted in several plays, such as Engaged, to positive reviews from the critics. But her prime love was clearly puppetry, and she remained active in it for much of her life.

The puppets below have the remarkable names of “Gas House Gertie and Barnacle Bill.”

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This last photograph is from a production that mixed live actors with puppets, but is unfortunately unlabeled. Can anyone help identify this production?

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Robert Prosky 1930 – 2008

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From the Robert Prosky Papers

Born in Philadelphia, Robert Prosky spent much of his career as an actor in more than 200 plays at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., on Broadway in New York City, and in regional theatre. Prosky’s association with the Arena Stage included more than 130 productions over the course of 20 years. His Broadway appearances included “Glengarry Glenross,” “A Walk in the Woods,” and “A View from the Bridge.” Highlights from regional theater include “Death of a Salesman,” “Twelfth Night,” and “You Can’t Take It With You.” He also performed on stage in the Moscow Art Theatre in Russia, the Gate Theater in Dublin, Ireland, as well as in a Chinese theater in Hong Kong.

Beginning in the 1980s, he began regularly appearing in films and television shows. His films include “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “The Natural,” and “Dead Man Walking.” Television credits include three years on “Hill Street Blues,” many television films, and guest shots.

He was given or nominated for two Tony awards, two Helen Hayes awards, an Emmy, the Drama Desk award, and the American Express Tribute To An American Actor. In his later years he continued to perform on stage and gave lectures on his long career at universities, film festivals, for theater benefits, business groups and on cruises. Special Collections & Archives’ Oral History Program Coordinator, Leah Donnelly, interviewed Bob at his home in Washington, D.C. on November 8, 2007.

In 2007 & 2008. Prosky donated his personal papers to George Mason University Libraries, where they are currently available for research.

Recent Acquisition Chronicles Transportation Development in the U.S. from the 1600s to 1880s

Frontespiece to Development of Transportation Systems... What was the state-of-the-art in terms of cross-country transportation in 1888?  How did transport technology evolve over the previous two hundred eighty years? The recently-acquired J.L Ringwalt work entitled Development of Transportation Systems in the United States… addresses those questions in detail.

The work covers the entire spectrum of transportation of individuals and cargo, including snowshoe, horse, wagon, road, inclined-plane, turnpike, canal, railway, and ship. Descriptions and history of each mode are accompanied by pages of illustrations.  Important milestones, such as the Erie Canal, Robert Fulton’s steamboat, and the development of a system of railroads, as well as  more mundane aspects of transportation history, are treated by Ringwalt in meticulous detail.img_0874_boats3

The book was acquired to supplement existing manuscript collections and rare books in SC&A dealing with planning and transportation.

Development of Transportation Systems in the United States…, Published in Philadelphia by the Author, 1888, First edition, 398 pages with 47 pages of illustrations. Special Collections & Archives Fenwick Library, HE 203 .R56 1888.