New York Musical Festival – 2019 NYMF Auction
Auction Ends: Dec 3, 2019 11:59 PM EST


Collection of Women Theater Maker Biographies

Item Number
Estimated Value
$91 USD
Opening Bid
$30 USD

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Item Description

Rare Copy of Eleanora Duse: A Biography by Helen Sheehy

Near pristine copy of Eleanor Duse: A Biography by Helen Sheehy, wrapped in protective covering published 8/2003 by Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher.

From the inside and back cover: A new biography, the first in two decades, of the legendary actress who inspired Anton Chekhov, popularized Henrik Ibsen, and spurred Stanislavski to create a new theory of acting based on her art and to invoke her name at every rehearsal.

Writers loved her and wrote plays for her. She be-friended Rainer Maria Rilke and inspired the young James Joyce, who kept a portrait of her on his desk. Her greatest love, the poet d’Annunzio, made her the heroine of his novel Il fuoco (The Flame). She radically changed the art of acting: in a duel between the past and the future, she vanquished her rival, Sarah Bernhardt. Chekhov said of her, “I’ve never seen anything like it. Looking at Duse, I realized why the Russian theatre is such a bore.” Charlie Chaplin called her “the finest thing I have seen on the stage.” Gloria Swanson and Lillian Gish watched her perform with adoring attention, John Barrymore with awe. Shaw said she “touches you straight on the very heart.”

When asked about her acting, Duse responded that, quite simply, it came from life. Except for one short film, Duse’s art has been lost. Despite dozens of books about her, her story is muffled by legend and myth. The sentimental image that prevails is of a misty, tragic heroine victimized by men, by life; an artist of unearthly purity, without ambition.

Now Helen Sheehy, author of the much admired biography of Eva Le Gallienne, gives us a different Duse—a woman of strength and resolve, a woman who knew pain but could also inflict it. “Life is hard,” she said, “one must wound or be wounded.” She wanted to reveal on the stage the truth about women’s lives and she wanted her art to endure.

Drawing on newly discovered material, including Duse’s own memoir, and unpublished letters and notes, Sheehy brings us to an understanding of the great actress’s unique ways of working: Duse acting out of her sense of her character’s inner life, Duse anticipating the bold aspects of modernism and performing with a sexual freedom that shocked and thrilled audiences. She edited her characters’ lines to bare skeletons, asked for the simplest sets and costumes. Where other actresses used hysterics onstage, Duse used stillness.

Sheehy writes about the Duse that the actress herself tried to hide—tracing her life from her childhood as a performing member of a family of actors touring their repertory of drama and commedia dell’arte through Italy. We follow her through her twenties and through the next four decades of commissioning and directing plays, running her own company, and illuminating a series of great roles that included Emile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin, Marguerite in Dumas’s La Dame aux camélias, Nora in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, and Hedda in his Hedda Gabler. When she thought her beauty was fading at fifty-one, she gave up the stage, only to return to the theatre in her early sixties; she traveled to America and enchanted audiences across the country. She died as she was born—on tour.

Sheehy’s illuminating book brings us as close as we have ever been to the woman and the artist.

Used Copy of Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography by Helen Sheehy (Hardcover)

Gently used Hardcover copy of Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography by Helen Sheehy published 10/1996 by Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher.  

From the Inside/Back cover: The Extraordinary life of one of the great actors of the twentieh-century theatre - her dazzling and influential work on the stage as actor and director, her controversial (and courageous) private life, her pioneering role as founder and head of the Civic Repertory Theatre, and her importance as translator of Ibsen and Chekhov.

This facsinating, richly detailed biography brings to life a remarkable, complex woman who described herself as a "step ahead of the century" - and she was. Her career an actor and director lasted more than seven decades., Her influence in the theatre is still being felt today.  

Eva Le Gallienne was a huge start on Broadway before she was twenty-one.  She was inspired by the style and brillance of the Divine Sarah, whom she first saw when she was seven.  She was transformed by the incomparable Elenaoa Duse, whose denial of self in search of inner truth led Le Gallienne, through years of their intense friendship, to her own emergence as one of the great natural actors of the age. 

She was taken up at nineteen by Ethel Barrymore, who saw her a huge talent. At twenty-seven, after appearing in twenty productions, Le Gallienne left Broadway and, following her dream, founde and restored a wreck of a bulding on New York's West Fourteeth Street and created the Civic Repertory Theatre (it became the model for off-Broadway) - putting into production, directing, and starring in as many as forty different plays, including The Three SistersThe Master BuilderHedda GablerThe Cherry OrchardPeter PanRomeo and JulietThe Seagull and Alice and Wonderland.  After ten years, when she folder the company of the depression, Le Gallienne returned to Broadway and starred in fifty other productions. 

She founded and supported noncommerical theatre companies throughout her life, among them the American Shakespeare Theatre and the American Repetory Theatre (which she cofounded with Cheryl Crawford and Le Gallienne's then lover, the brillant director Margaret Webster). 

We see Le Gallienne's childhood in London and Paris with her bohemian parents: her Danish mother, a feminist, journalist, and follower of Ibsen and Brandes; and her estranged father, the slightly successful but throughtly selfish English poet and writer, Richard Le Gallienne....her early years as an actor, her triumphs with Barrymore and Basil Rathbone, Joseph Schildkraut, Alla Nazimova, and other.  We see the extraordinary women who were drawn to her work and supported it - among them Elenora Sears, socialite and champion tennis, polo, and squash player; Alice De Lamar, philanthropist; and Mary Curtis Bok Zimbalist, heir to the Curtis Publishing Company.  And we see the many women whom she chose to love openly and who loved her back.  

Using Le Gallienne's diaries, letters, and notes, and interviewing more than 150 of her friends, lovers, acquantances, and family. Helen Sheehy has brought this complex artist brillantly alive.  Her book is a revelation of the actor's life and work.   

Mint copy of Margo: The Life and Theatre of Margo Jones by Helen Sheehy (Paperback)

This mint condition paper back copy of Margo: The Life and Theatre of Margo Jones by Helen Sheehy is in protective shrinkwrap from the publisher and has not been opened. 

American theatre pioneer Margo Jones established the first modern professional resident theatre in the U.S. in Dallas in 1947 - the model for more than 450 such theatres in the country today. Margo was a mentor to playwrights William Inge, Horton Foote, Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, as well as Tennessee Williams, whose The Glass Menagerie she co-directed in its first Broadway production. 

About the Author:  Helen Sheehy is the author of three biographies and a textbook, All About Theatre (1981). Her biography of theatre pioneer Margo Jones, Margo: The Life and Theatre of Margo Jones, (SMU Press 1989) was released in paperback with a new introduction by Emily Mann in 2005. The New York Times Book Review selected Sheehy's biography Eva Le Gallienne (Knopf 1996), about another pioneer of 20th century theatre, as one of its notable books of 1996. Sheehy's biography of the first modern actor, Eleonora Duse: A Biography (Knopf 2003), was also selected by the New York Times Book Review as a notable book. In 2005, Mondadori published an Italian translation of the biography, Eleonora Duse: La Donna, Le Passioni, La Leggenda.

During the early 1980s, Sheehy worked with Mark Lamos at the Hartford Stage Company in Hartford, Connecticut, serving as dramaturg on a number of classics, new plays and adaptations, including Constance Congdon's No Mercy and Lanford Wilson's adaptation of Chekhov's The Three Sisters. From 1992 to 2004, Sheehy co-authored (with Leslie Stainton) the annual desk diary, On Writers and Writing, a collection of biographical essays. From 1985 to 2007, Sheehy was Adjunct Professor of Theatre at Southern Connecticut State University. She was a consultant on Sweet Tornado, a PBS documentary about Margo Jones , served from 1998-2002 on the judging panel for the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play, and was a contributing historian for Spotlight on Broadway. She has lectured at Lincoln Center Theater's Director's Lab, Yale Drama School, Amherst College, Dallas Museum of Art, Edith Wharton's The Mount's Distinguished Lecture Series, Italian Institute of Chicago, Westport Country Playhouse, the Bushnell Lecture Series, and was keynote speaker for the 2003 Connecticut Book Awards.

Sheehy has contributed numerous articles and essays to American Theatre, Connecticut Magazine, Opera News, Lincoln Center Theater Review, American National Biography, Notable American Women, The New York Times, and other publications. She is a member of PEN and the Authors Guild. She recently completed Willa, a novel.


Special Instructions

Rare Copy of Eleanora Duse: A Biography by Helen Sheehy (Hardcover)

As of the creation of this page only had only 1 copy of this theatrical treasure available for sale.   

Items is a physical hardcover book, wrapped in a protective cover. It does not appear to have been read.

Used Copy of Eva Le Gallienne: A Biography by Helen Sheehy (Hardcover)

Item is a physical hardcover book and is gently used.  

Please note: as of publishing of this auction page only has 4 copies of this rare biography.  

Mint copy of Margo: The Life and Theatre of Margo Jones by Helen Sheehy (Paperback)

This is a phyiscal paperback copy of this book sealed in shrinkwrap.  It has never been opened.  As of the creation of this auction only had 1 new used copy of this book.  

Items will be shipped by New York Musical Festival using US Mail. Shipping costs are NOT included in bidding and will be charged to the winning bidder depending upon location. If winner is in local New York City area, hand-delivery may be possible.