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Finding Aid for the George E. Lask Papers, 1884-1935
742  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Administrative Information
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content
  • Organization and Arrangement
  • Processing Note
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Title: George E. Lask Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1884-1935
    Collection number: 742
    Creator: Lask, George E. 1866-1936
    Extent: 19 boxes (9.5 linear feet) 3 flat boxes
    Abstract: George E. Lask (1866-1936) was a prominent stage director in San Francisco and New York. Lask is famous for staging the first American production of the musical Florodora in New York in 1900. The original sextet in the show that Lask picked and trained came to be known as the Florodora girls, a precursor of the American chorus girl. The majority of the collection contains scripts and plots for stage productions as well as correspondence, photographs, printed materials, newspaper clippings, and other theater related items.
    Language: English
    Repository: University of California, Los Angeles. Library. Department of Special Collections.
    Los Angeles, California 90095-1575
    Physical location: Stored off-site at SRLF. Advance notice is required for access to the collection. Please contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Administrative Information

    Restrictions on Access

    COLLECTION STORED OFF-SITE AT SRLF: Open for research. Advance notice required for access. Contact the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections Reference Desk for paging information.

    Restrictions on Use and Reproduction

    Property rights to the physical object belong to the UCLA Library, Department of Special Collections. Literary rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], George E. Lask Papers (Collection Number 742). Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA.

    Biography

    George E. Lask, veteran manager and director of the stage, is famous in the theater world for staging the first production of Florodora in New York in 1900 and being the first authority on what is now known as the American chorus girl. Born in 1866 in San Francisco's Chinatown district, Lask began his theater career at the Boys' High School, now known as Lowell High School, where he was a member of the Longfellow Literary and Dramatic Club. After graduating from high school, Lask traveled to Europe. Upon returning to the city, Lask worked at the grain exchange and then as an errand boy at Crocker-Woolworth Bank. While employed at the bank, Lask appeared in numerous amateur theater productions and even found success as Launcelot Gobbo in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice. Lask then auditioned with Fred Bert, manager of the California Theatre, for a spot in W.S. Sheridan's repertoire company. Lask got the part and for the next eight months he toured the coast playing the boy roles in Shakespearen dramas.
    Following this, Lask continued to work with Bert but this time as an apprentice in the stock company at San Francisco's Grand Opera House. Lask did everything from paint scenery, to making props and sewing costumes, to working with the music. When Fay Templeton and her company arrived in San Francisco, she engaged Lask as assistant stage manager and he was on his way to New York. Upon arriving in New York, Lask got an engagement as assistant stage manager for Orpheus at the Bijou Theatre with director Max Freeman. After, Lask returned to San Francisco and for the next two years, he was stage manager for the Tivoli Opera Company. Lask then went back to New York, this time with producer Charles Frohman. He returned to San Francisco soon after and spent 1893 to 1900 as director of the Tivoli.
    At this time, New York stage producer and director, John C. Fisher, asked Lask to try staging an American version of the popular English musical comedy Florodora, of which he had just bought the rights to. Convinced, Lask traveled to London. After five weeks, Lask returned with models of the scenery and costumes for the show. After five weeks of rehearsals, Florodora opened on November 10, 1900 at the Casino Theatre in New York. The show was not an immediate success but its popularity grew. This can be attributed to the sextet of chorus girls in the show, who later came to be known as the Florodora girls. The original sextet included Daisy Green, Marjorie Relyea, Vaughn Texsmith, Margaret Walker, Agnes Wayburn, and Marie Wilson. It was Lask who spent countless hours teaching and drilling the girls in the subtle art of gesturing, facial expressions, winking and nodding. His patience paid off because Florodora ran for an unprecedented 505 shows and didn't close until January 25, 1902. The most popular number by far was the song "Tell Me, Pretty Maiden".
    After Florodora took off, Lask headed a road company of the show and then returned to San Francisco. Lask spent a summer at the Grand Opera House and then managed the Weber & Field productions at Fischer's Theatre for 72 weeks. From December 1902 to May 1903, Lask was back in New York working with producer and director David Belasco on The Darling of the Gods. After, Lask was general director for producers Nixon & Zimmerman. He finally returned to San Francisco where he managed the Tivoli during the three months prior to the 1906 earthquake and fire. Following this, Lask was stage manager at the Central Theatre, the American Theater, and the Princess Theater, all in San Francisco.
    On March 1, 1936 Lask died of a bronchial illness at his home in San Francisco. He was 70 years old.

    Scope and Content

    This collection contains materials related to the career of veteran stage manager and director, George E. Lask. The majority of the collection consists of theater materials such as scripts and plots for music, property, scenery, and lighting. Of particular interest is an annotated script by J.M. Barrie for a play titled "Punch". Also included are photographs, correspondence, picture books, newspaper clippings, and an assortment of ephemera and printed materials. These include play catalogues, programs, theater related newsletters and magazines, as well as a number of New York City guide books from the 1920s.

    Organization and Arrangement

    Arranged in the following series:
    1. Ephemera and correspondence (1906-1934 inclusive)
    2. Newspaper clippings (1906-1932)
    3. Photographs (1884-1932)
    4. Picture Books (1887-1933)
    5. Plays (1896-1937)
    6. Printed material (1895-1935).

    Processing Note

    This collection was partially processed upon acquisition. In fall 2006, the collection was rehoused, described, and arranged into series by Nina Meechoonuk, a Center for Primary Research and Training student/scholar.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    Lask, George E., 1866-1936--Archives
    Stage managers -- United States -- Archival resources.
    Theatrical producers and directors -- United States -- Archival resources.