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UK Special Collections Raises Curtain on Century of American Theatre History

photo of cover of Dearinger Collection program
headshot photo of Kevin Dearinger
headshot photo of John Arthur Dearinger

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 21, 2017) University of Kentucky Libraries Special Collections Research Center (SCRC) will celebrate a century of historical American theatre with the dedication of the John Arthur Dearinger Memorial Theatre Collection. Donated by UK alumnus Kevin Dearinger in memory of his father, the collection represents the work of over 1,100 mid-19th to mid-20th century actors and actresses.

The public is invited to a dedication program and exhibition viewing from 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23, in the Great Hall of the Margaret I. King Library Building. At 5:30 p.m., Kevin Dearinger will speak about the collection and his experiences conducting research in the field of theatre history.

The John Arthur Dearinger Memorial Theatre Collection is an abundant archive of over 2,000 historical items including photographs, postcards, playbills, scrapbooks, articles and autographs. Additionally, the collection features vintage vinyl recordings of prominent actors of the day reading scenes from various Shakespeare plays.

UK Libraries Special Collections Research Center is pleased to offer access to this rich resource for theatrical, literary, historical, and cultural research. "Performance is a universal cultural phenomenon and preserving theatre history allows us to learn about ourselves as human beings, other cultures, history, social change, and creativity," said SCRC Associate Dean Deirdre Scaggs. "The Dearinger Collection is a beautiful example of that heritage and will be used by scholars and students for generations to come."

Kevin Dearinger, who earned his bachelor's degree in English from UK in 1973, began his acting career on the stage of UK's Guignol Theatre where he starred in a production of George Bernard Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion." After several busy seasons in summer stock, his professional career took him to Broadway where he participated in numerous national and international tours. Dearinger has performed on the stages of many prestigious regional theatre companies, including Goodspeed Opera, The Huntington and Paper Mill Playhouse. He is a member of both the Actors' Equity Association and the Screen Actors Guild.

Upon retiring from the stage, Dearinger transitioned to researching and writing about performance with his 2007 publication "The Bard in the Bluegrass: Two Centuries of Shakespearean Performance in Lexington, Kentucky." His research, coupled with a passionate interest in preserving the record of actors, plays and the theatre of the past, served as the inspiration for accumulating the material that has become the John Arthur Dearinger Memorial Theatre Collection.

Dearinger honors his late father, Professor John Arthur Dearinger, in naming the collection for him. Professor Dearinger was a distinguished faculty member in the UK College of Engineering from 1957 to 1991, and a continuous supporter of Kevin in his pursuit of a career in theatre.

The Special Collections Research Center at UK Libraries is home to a collection of rare books, Kentuckiana, the Archives, the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, the King Library Press, the Wendell H. Ford Public Policy Research Center, the Bert T. Combs Appalachian Collection, the John G. Heyburn Initiative and ExploreUK. The mission of the center is to locate and preserve materials documenting the social, cultural, economic and political history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

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