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September 18, 2006

Exhibit puts spotlight on the theatrical Charles Dickens

An exhibit examining the 19th-century author Charles Dickens' connections to theater and film will open Oct. 2 in the Peterson Gallery on the second floor of the Bing Wing of Green Library. The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, will be on display through Jan. 28, 2007.

Charles Dickens and Show Biz uses rare editions of dramatic works by Dickens and his contemporaries, letters, vintage playbills, movie memorabilia and theater costumes to highlight the author as a playwright, actor and theatrical producer, as well as to illustrate the many ways in which Dickens' work has been interpreted in performance.

"Dickens loved the theater and the theater loved him," said alumnus Bruce Crawford, who, with his father Ralph J. Crawford Jr., is guest curator for the exhibit and from whose personal collection the exhibit's artifacts are drawn. "The exhibit is among the first to explore the many inventive connections between Dickens and the entertainment industry, which embraced his work as a virtually limitless source of theatrical material."

A lifelong passion for the stage drove Dickens to write, produce, direct and act, to include his children and their friends in theater performances at home and to mount benefit performances in support of worthy causes and indigent friends, Crawford said.

Dickens also campaigned for social reform, and the exhibit looks at how his themes—the mistreatment of children and of the poor, the sinister indifference of the prosperous and the hope for redemption for those who change their ways—have been translated in a variety of productions.

Among the items to be exhibited is an 1855 playbill advertising a family holiday play performed in Dickens' home with the author's 2-year-old son, Edward Dickens, appearing as "Mr. Plornishmaroontigoonter." Another playbill, announcing an 1857 performance in The Frozen Deep by Dickens and the young actress Ellen Ternan, foreshadows an emotional crisis for the author, Crawford said. A relationship between the two developed into a notorious liaison that led to the breakup of Dickens' marriage to Catherine Hogarth and an outpouring of nasty publicity.

Charles Dickens and Show Biz also will display images of a diverse group of stage and film actors performing in Dickensian roles, including W. C. Fields, Lon Chaney, George C. Scott, Sally Field, Patrick Stewart, Alfre Woodard and Mickey Mouse. An audio station in the exhibit will allow visitors to listen to Dickens-inspired recordings, including readings and musical selections.

Exhibit cases in the Peterson Gallery are illuminated Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. The gallery is accessible whenever Green Library is open and hours vary with the academic schedule. For library hours, call (650) 723-0931.

An exhibition catalog, Charles Dickens and Show Biz, written by Ralph and Bruce Crawford, has been produced in conjunction with the exhibit. Information on ordering the catalog is available at, by sending e-mail to or by calling (650) 736-7604. All proceeds from sales of the catalog will benefit Stanford University Libraries Special Collections.

Editor Note:

Images available on request. Contact Becky Fischbach at (650) 725-1020,



Barbara Palmer, News Service: (650) 724-6184,


Becky Fischbach, Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries: (650) 725-1020,


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