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Cary Ellison Shared Learning project

Cary Ellison Shared Learning project
24 March 2020

Jennifer Simpson National SLP coordinator, talks about the Cary Ellison Shared Learning Project.

A project has started at Kingston University archives to be based on the Cary Ellison Theatre Programme Collection.

Cary Ellison was a talent spotter who worked for Spotlight magazine. As part of his work he toured the country twice a year viewing repertory performances in order to discover up-and-coming actors, directors and plays.

The collection at Kingston University consists of 1,644 programmes from the productions Ellison saw between the 50s and 70s when he was touring the country. They contain Ellison's personal reviews of the plays, actors and often the set designs.

Ellison's comments are honest and provide valuable insight into the performances of actors in their early careers. Many of these actors became nationally and internationally known, such as Anthony Hopkins and Judie Dench.

Interested U3A members are being asked to research various aspects of theatre history based on the Cary Ellison programmes and notes.

This can be carried out online at home as a lot of the information is already archived, and as such, U3As across the country can get involved. If actual images of the programmes are needed, Jennifer can provide them (see contact below).

What is needed is just a written piece to give a brief history of the Theatre and a photo of it as it is now.  If the Theatre has gone, what is it now? Now and Then images would be great.

It is envisaged that the research will be split into different areas:

1. “Where are they now” which could include

  • A map of the regions showing where the theatres were.
  • Photographs of theatres at the time Ellison was touring.
  • Photographs of the sites today.
  • Stories of what happened to the theatres – financial crisis, Society changes, decline of rep theatres?

2. “To be or not to be” Cary Ellison’s talent for talent spotting which could include:

  • A focus on the plays seen by him in a chosen area between the 1950s-1970s.
  • A study of the actors Ellison acclaimed in his notes – did they make it?
  • A study of the actors Ellison wrote off – did they make it?

To help with the research you can access a spreadsheet showing the Theatres he visited to make sure there are enough to research in your area or U3A region.

For further research you can access the archives at Kingston University in this way:

  • Visit the archive link::
  • From the Simple Search page click on Expert Search
  • Click on the arrow next to Word(s) from the title and select Reference from the drop-down  menu
  • In the box next to Reference, type KUAS75
  • Click on Search.
  • This will bring up a link to the Cary Ellison Theatre Programme Collection– click on this.
  • Scroll down to the Hierarchy browser and click on the +button.
  • This will bring up a list of all the files catalogued so far.
  • Click on individual files to see details of all the programmes contained within.

If you think you would like to get involved or for further information please contact Jennifer Simpson, U3A National Shared Learning Project Coordinator. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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