Alix Jeffry Photographs

A trove of images from the early years of Off Broadway theater
"Funnyhouse of a Negro" by Adrienne Kennedy, 1964. Photograph by Alix Jeffry.
© Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library

Alix Jeffry (1929-1993) photographed over 250 Off Broadway shows between 1952 and 1967. In many cases, her images are the only visual record of groundbreaking new plays.

Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill in Edward Albee's “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" 1962.
Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill in Edward Albee's “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" 1962. View Details.
© Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library

The Alix Jeffry archive consists of over 60,000 negatives, contact sheets, prints, and slides documenting the work of famous playwrights like Edward Albee, Amiri Baraka (previously known as LeRoi Jones), Samuel Beckett, John Guare, Adrienne Kennedy, Sam Shepard, and Lanford Wilson.

History

Born Evelyn Fish in 1929, Alix Jeffry arrived in New York City in 1952 and began photographing the Off Broadway theater scene. Budgets at the time typically did not allow for more than a few publicity shots, much less for filming. Jeffry, however, uniquely documented productions from start to finish, creating a definitive visual record of a pivotal period in American theater history.

Jeffry photographed productions by the Artists’ Theatre, The Living Theatre, Terese Hayden’s Theatre de Lys, New York City Center, as well as plays by emerging dramatists produced by the Playwrights Unit.

Jeffry later worked as freelancer for the New York Times, photographing celebrities for feature articles in the Arts and Leisure section from 1968 to 1980. There are approximately 20,000 portraits in the collection.

Harry Belafonte, 1972. Photograph by Alix Jeffry.
Harry Belafonte, 1972. Photograph by Alix Jeffry. View Details.
© Harvard Theatre Collection, Houghton Library

Her photographs have also appeared in The New Met in Profile (1974) by Stephen E. Rubin, Mary C. Henderson’s Broadway Ballyhoo (1989), and were the subject of a 2001 exhibition at the Harvard Theatre Collection.

Jeffry's archive was gifted to the Harvard Theatre Collection by Frederick R. Koch in 1981. Additional prints, correspondence, and drafts of unpublished writings, along with Jeffry's copyright, were later donated by her partner Mary Alice Morris.

Diversity

Among the people Jeffry photographed are many performers of color, including Billie Allen, Marian Anderson, Harry Belafonte, Vinie Burrows, Tamara Dobson, Al Freeman Jr., Morgan Freeman, Reri Grist, Lena Horne, James Earl Jones, Betty Lane, Rosetta LeNoire, Henry Lewis, Mabel Mercer, Leontyne Price, Harold Scott, Bobby Short, Shirley Verrett, William Warfield, and Flip Wilson.

Jeffry also captured the world premieres of Dutchman (1964) by Amiri Baraka and Funnyhouse of a Negro (1964) by Adrienne Kennedy.

Accessing These Materials

All material is available for use in Houghton Library’s reading room.

Reproductions and Permissions

To obtain publishable-quality images, please consult Harvard Library’s Reproductions page. Researchers must also notify the library before reproducing photographs by Alix Jeffry. When contacting us, please reference the Alix Jeffry archive and the image’s call number.