Larry Humphries Collection

Collection

Repository

Repository Name: Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives
Repository Location: Becket, Massachusetts 01223

Date

1900 – 2003 (Inclusive date(s))

Extent

10 Boxes (8 linear ft.)

Administrative/Biographical History

Dance publicist and impresario Larry Humphries was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on August 10, 1926. As a small child he took tap dance lessons, sparking a life-long interest in dance. In the 1940s, Humphries formed an exhibition dancing team called “The Champions” with his twin sister, Claire, and soon amassed a reputation as a local talent and dance instructor. After serving with the army’s 76th Engineer’s Construction Battalion during the Korean War, Humphries returned to Massachusetts and continued to dance, studying with Marjery Fielding and performing at Springfield’s historic Court Square Theatre. At this time he was also a member of the “Stars of Tomorrow” dance company, which staged productions frequently across western Massachusetts. In the late 1950s, Humphries found work at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum. Having summers off, he wrote to Ted Shawn, to whom he had been introduced a few years earlier, and volunteered to work for the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. He began working at the festival in 1961 as assistant publicity director and house manager, later rising to publicity director and working directly with Shawn. Because the festival occurred only in the summers, Humphries spent May through October at Jacob’s Pillow and in the winter worked other jobs, first in Massachusetts and later in New York City. He remained involved in all promotional aspects of Jacob’s Pillow until 1969, after which he maintained his connection to the festival as a freelance publicist, ticket holder, member of the Jacob’s Pillow Auxiliary, and valued friend. In addition to his work at Jacob’s Pillow, Humphries provided freelance publicity assistance to a host of nationally and internationally known dancers and dance companies in the 1960s and 70s, including the Denishawn Repertory Dancers, Bhaskar, Ramón de los Reyes, Carola Goya & Matteo (for whom he stage managed a cross-country tour in 1961-1962), and La Meri. In a later interview, La Meri – a dancer, teacher, writer and dance ethnologist – dubbed Humphries both “a first-class PR man” and “a tremendous friend of dance.” After moving back to western Massachusetts on a permanent basis, Humphries served as the co-director and owner of the Ballet Theatre School in Springfield, MA from 1979 to 1987, an honorary advisory board member of the Denishawn Repertory Dancers, an advisory board member for the Pioneer Valley Ballet and the Albany-Berkshire Ballet, and a council member for the Academic Artists Association of Springfield, MA. Throughout much of this time, Humphries also served as gallery manager, conservationist, and framer at The Little Gallery in Springfield, MA until his retirement in 1988. In the 1990s, Humphries, a consummate entertainer, joined the Young at Heart Chorus, and sang the title song from the musical “Hair” at the Rotterdam Music Festival in Holland. Sources: Bremer, David LeRoy. “Tremendous Friend of the Dance.” New England Entertainment Digest, 31 Jan. 1994: 9, 12. Carbone, Angela. “Larry Humphries’ Heart Always in the Arts.” Springfield Union-News. 27 Feb. 1997: OT5. International Who’s Who of Entrepreneurs. Date unknown.

Preferred Citation

box number, title, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival Archives, Becket, MA.

Provenance

Larry Humphries

Scope and content

As an employee and long-time friend of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Larry Humphries amassed a sizeable collection of materials that reveal the inner workings of one of America’s earliest and most ground-breaking dance institutions. Because the staff of Jacob’s Pillow did not live in the Berkshires year-round, business among principal employees was conducted in the winter through letters, many of which combine personal greetings, business strategizing, and itemized lists of expenditures for reimbursement. A significant portion of the collection consists of these letters, most from the 1960s, written between Humphries and festival founder and director Ted Shawn, associate director John Christian, business manager Grace Badorek, and dancer Barton Mumaw. Also included in the collection are Jacob’s Pillow memorabilia including programs, framed photographs, snapshots, publicity negatives, clippings, invitations, a 50th anniversary guest book, as well as various commemorative items. The collection also contains files on Humphries’ dance publicity clients, including correspondence, programs, flyers, posters, calendars, magazines, newspapers, journals, brochures, press releases, dance instruction books, and even castanets. Other materials in the collection include a catalog of dance books at Springfield College, antique souvenir programs, calendars, an annual report containing dance photographs, glass figurines, as well as flyers, publications, poster, and numerous video tapes of dance performances. Framed items from the Larry Humphries Collection rotate on display at various locations on the Jacob’s Pillow grounds. For current locations of framed items, consult the Framed Collection database. Also included in the Humphries collection are a handful of clippings related to his family’s search for siblings who had been separated from their mother at birth.

System of arrangement

The collection is organized into three series. Series 1: Correspondence, Publicity Materials, Administrative Documents, 1937-2003 Series 2: Other Programs, Periodicals, Souvenirs, and Ephemera, 1916-2003 Series 3: Graphic Materials (photographic negatives, prints, videos, photo cards), ca 1900s- ca 2003

Conditions governing access

The collection is open for research use.

Languages and scripts on the material

Materials entirely in English.

Related archival materials

Related Collections: Letters from Larry Humphries may be found in Jacob's Pillow's Barton Mumaw Collection (Box 188) and in various boxes of Ted Shawn's correspondence. At least two other collections contain letters written by Larry Humphries, both at the New York Public Library – the Ted Shawn Papers [call number: (S)*MGZMD 133] and the Ted Shawn Collection [call number: (S) *MGZMC-Res. 31].

Processing Information

Information: Processed by Brian Baldi, 2010

Collection Contents