This collection consists of the records of the Long Leaf Opera Company which was founded in 1998 in Durham, N.C., by artistic director and playwright Dr. Wallace Randolph Umberger, Jr., and musical director and composer Mr. Benjamin Franklin Keaton and disbanded in 2012 due to the death of Dr. Umberger. Included are librettos and musical scores, scrapbooks, CDs, DVDs of performances, programs, photographs, promotional material, financial records, correspondence and clippings. A large portion (ca. 1950s-1997) of this collection also documents the pre-Long Leaf Opera Company careers of Umberger and Keaton. Included are manuscripts for plays, novels, musical comedies, and poetry written by Umberger, musical scores for an opera and muscial comedies written by Keaton, programs for productions they participated in, publications, photographs, and correspondence (some is from Paul Green).
The Long Leaf Opera Company was founded in 1998 by Randolph Umberger and Benjamin Keaton to produce English language Operas in the Triangle area of North Carolina. They were in operation from 1998 to 2011. Each season (a season being from September to April) produced at least two operas and beginning in 2007 an annual vocal competition that brought national attention.
Dr. Randolph (Ranny) Umberger was born in Virginia and studied theatre at the University of Chapel-Hill receiving both his Bachelors and Masters of Arts. He then earned his doctorate at Tulane University in 1970. He was a Professor of Theatre at North Carolina Central University beginning in 1967 until his retirement in 1997. While at NCCU he directed Of Mules and Men his own adaption of Nora Zeale Hurston's work that won honors at the America College Theatre Festival at the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts. Then in 1998, along with his life-partner Benjamin Keaton, he founded the Long Leaf Opera Company where he would not only produce but direct several productions until his unexpected death in October of 2011.
Benjamin Keaton is a 1961 graduate of East Carolina University, earning both his Bachelors and Masters degrees in music. He was the Maestro of the Long Leaf Opera Company as he had a long and prolific career as a Musical Director. He also had several original musical compositions staged such as The Liberty Cart, Emily, and The Lone Star.
This collection is divided into two sections, the professional workings of the Long Leaf Opera Company of Durham, North Carolina, and the personal records of its founders: Randolph Umberger and Benjamin Keaton.
The section relating to Long Leaf Opera Company runs from 1998 to 2010 and consists of Board of Directors meetings, grant proposals, performance profit summaries, contracts, and correspondence. Also included are the books, lyrics, and scores for their produced opera's. Some highlights include Amahl and the Night Visitors, Oh Susanna, Strange Fruit, Jackie O, and The Tempest. Additionally, each season, September through April, has a scrapbook that includes programs, posters, reviews, advertisements, and other related media. Performance Photographs and CD recordings are available within the collection as well.
The second section pertains to the personal and pre-Long Leaf Opera Company careers of its founders, Randolph (Ranny) Umberger and Benjamin Keaton. Much of this section is dedicated to Umberger's original works; he was an author not only of operas but also of plays, poetry, short stories, and novels. Most notable are his long-running 1976 play The Liberty Cart, and his 1991 award-winning adaption of Nora Zeale Hurston's Of Mules and Men.
Benjamin Keaton's original musical compositions are also available, including songs that were cut from final performances. His full score for Emily by Thomas Patterson for East Carolina University and the Carolina Playmakers is of special note. The personal correspondence of both Keaton and Umberger from the 1960's to 1990's is included. Umberger's mentor, Paul Green, was the Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of The Lost Colony and their correspondence is also included.
Gift of Benjamin Franklin Keaton
Gift of the Institute of Outdoor Theatre via Director Dr. Michael C. Hardy
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.