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MS Thr 531

Komisarjevsky, Theodore, 1882-1954. Theodore Komisarjevsky correspondence with Phillada Sewell, 1929-1968: Guide.

Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University


Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138 USA

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Location: b
Call No.: MS Thr 531
Repository: Houghton Library, Harvard Library, Harvard University
Creator: Komisarjevsky, Theodore, 1882-1954.
Title: Theodore Komisarjevsky correspondence with Phillada Sewell,
Date(s): 1929-1968,
Date(s): (bulk) 1934-1954.
Quantity: 1 collection (1.5 linear feet (4 boxes)
Language of materials: Collection materials are in English.
Abstract: Correspondence of theatrical director Theodore Komisarjevsky and his student and close friend, actress Phillada Sewell.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

2003MT-0197. Purchased from Golden Legend, Inc.; received: 2004 January 13.

Processing Information:

Processed by: Irina Klyagin

Conditions Governing Access:

There are no restrictions on physical access to this material.

Preferred Citation for Publication:

Theodore Komisarjevsky Correspondence with Phillada Sewell, 1929-1968 (MS Thr 531). Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library, Harvard University.

Separated Materials

Transcription of the correspondence created by Dr. Richard Thompson (Surrey, England) acquired with the collection, was separated and moved to the curatorial files.

Biographical / Historical

Theodore Komisarjevsky was a leading 20th century theatrical director and designer, particularly known for his productions of plays by Anton Chekhov and William Shakespeare in England in the 1930s.
Born into a theatrical Russian family, he was raised in Italy and Russia. In 1919 he left Soviet Russia and shortly afterwards settled in England.
In the 1930s, his productions of King Lear and Macbeth for the Stratford-upon-Avon Shakespeare Memorial Company were widely acclaimed as the most innovative of his time. He also published a study of theatrical costumes, translated and wrote plays, and gave lectures at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
Komisarjevsky moved to the United States in 1939 together with a young American dancer Ernestine Stodelle, who became his wife. In the United States, he staged a number of productions at the New York City Opera, gave lectures on theatre, and opened Komisarjevsky Theatre Studio in New Haven, where he taught summer courses and staged versions of Russian classics with his students. He died in Darien, Connecticut in 1954.
Phillada Sewell (1910-1998) was an English stage, television and screen actress. She became Komisarjevsky's student and friend in 1930. She was later instrumental in raising funds for Komisarjevsky to go to America to found a school for acting. Over the years, Sewell became Komisarjevsky's most trusted friend and confidant.


Arranged alphabetically by correspondent and chronologically within. Photographs and programs are at the end.

Scope and Contents

Includes personal correspondence between Theodore Komisarjevsky and Phillada Sewell, letters to Sewell from Komisarjevsky's wife, Ernestine Stodelle, and his sons, Christopher and Benedict, programs of Komisarjevsky's and Sewell's productions, and a few photographs.

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