With a new season of the arts finally happening and audiences back in theaters, concert halls and museums, we wanted to explore how Al Hirschfeld viewed a new season. What did he draw, and what does it tell us about that season? For more than sixty years, Hirschfeld showed us the people and the productions we should look for as the season unfolded.
It is not surprising that he often showed us what stage productions were about to open. Beginning in 1931 he gathered actors in new shows and created unique composites of the performers in their roles. He was a frequent visitor to rehearsals and while his contemporaries might be lying on the beach, Hirschfeld enjoyed the cool of a frequently windowless rehearsal room in late August. He was literally a curtain raiser, often taking viewers backstage and behind the curtain to see what would be soon presented at a theater near them. He did the same with film, television, and even books as you will see.
Starting in 1977, the New York Times gave him the opportunity to bring all his interests together in busy composites of the personalities that held the most promise in the new season. Ten times over twelve years, Hirschfeld produced the faces of the new season as the cover of special sections for the paper that covered, theater, film, dance, television, music and the visual arts. These drawings alone told readers that a new season was about to start, and like his theater drawings, it made viewers as knowledgeable about what was going on as any expert.
So get into your seats, unwrap your candy as the house lights are dimming. As Cole Porter wrote:
“The overture is about to start,
You cross your fingers and hold your heart,
It's curtain time and away we go,
Another op'nin', of another show!”