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Bonnie Lee Moss Rattner Papers

 Collection
Identifier: UP001725
The Bonnie Lee Moss Rattner Collection contains clippings, correspondence, articles, address lists, scripts and miscellaneous material pertaining primarily to Ms. Rattner's "To Gleam It Around, To Show My Shine," a two-act play based upon the novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God" by Zora Neale Hurston. Among the various subjects covered in the collection are African-American literature, Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, grant proposals, production rights, Wayne State University, playwriting and productions for the stage.

Important subjects in the collection: Adap tation of Previously Published Literature African American Literature Stage Production Copyright and Publishing Rights Grant Writing Music Screenplays Women’s Literature

Important correspondents in the collection: Phillip Hayes Dean Ruby Dee Robert Ned erlander Otis M. Smith

Dates

  • 1961 - 1997

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access

Collection is open for research.

Use

Refer to Walter P. Reuther Library Rules for Use of Archival Materials.

Extent

6.5 Linear Feet (5 SB, 1 OS)

Abstract

Bonnie Lee Moss Rattner wrote a stage adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, as her master's thesis while earning a Master of Arts degree in English at Wayne State University. After obtaining the stage rights for the novel, the play "To Gleam It Around, To Show My Shine," was first performed in 1983 at Wayne State's Hilberry Theater. Ms. Rattner worked as an advocate of African-American literature, particularly of the work of Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and Phillip Hayes Dean. Ms. Rattner's papers reflect her efforts as an advocate of African-American culture and provide insight into the process of writing and producing theatrical productions.

History

Bonnie Lee Moss Rattner was a Wayne State University student who earned a bachelor's degree from the University in 1962 in English education and then studied briefly at Paris's Sorbonne University and the University of Michigan before beginning a career as a secondary school English teacher and mother. She returned to Wayne State University in 1965 to undertake graduate studies, which culminated in 1979 with her earning a Master of Arts degree in English.

It was in 1978 that she discovered Zora Neale Hurston's novel "Their Eyes Were Watching God", which Rattner described as a life-changing experience. She decided to write an adaptation of the play that she initially titled "Eatonville" as her master's thesis project under the guidance of Wayne State University Professor L. Todd Duncan.

Rattner then spent several years in her effort to obtain the stage rights for the novel. Re-titled "To Gleam It Around, To Show My Shine," the play was first performed for the public in 1983 at Wayne State University's Hilberry Theater.

Rattner devoted herself to convincing producers across the country to stage the play, which she referred to as her "second child," and she met with resounding success. "To Gleam It Around, To Show My Shine" was staged in New York at the Richard Allen Center in 1985 and at Harlem's Center for Cultural Research and at the Alliance Theater for the Atlanta New Play Project in 1986.Rattner's play received an award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Fund for New American Plays in 1987, resulting in a 1988 production of "To Gleam It Around, To Show My Shine" at the Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Along with "Their Eyes Were Watching God", Rattner obtained the rights to Hurston's "Of Mules and Men", which she adapted as "Light of Diamonds." A portion of that adaptation was performed in 1983 at Howard University by Ruby Dee.

Throughout her career as a writer, Rattner was deeply involved with seeing that worthy African-American literature obtained wider recognition. Rattner co-wrote an adaptation of Langston Hughes's "Not Without Laughter". She also became co-producer of "Asinamali," a musical that opened on Broadway in 1987, and she sought wider recognition for the work of Phillip Hayes Dean, whose plays "Robeson" and "Freedman" obtained international success. In the 1990's, Rattner and Duncan began working on a book on the life of former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Otis M. Smith, the state's first black Supreme Court Justice. She also worked as a free-lance writer, writing numerous articles for publications such as "The Michigan Alumnus, Michigan Magazine" and "The Detroit News".

Arrangement of the Records

Files are arranged alphabetically by subject.

Acquisition

The papers of Bonnie Lee Moss Rattner were placed in the Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs in 1998 by Ms. Rattner.

Processing History

Finding aid written by Walter P. Reuther Library in 2006.
Title
Guide to the Bonnie Lee Moss Rattner Papers
Author
Processed by Walter P. Reuther Library.
Date
2006
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English

Repository Details

Part of the Walter P. Reuther Library Repository

Contact:
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Detroit MI 48202 USA