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Kenneth W. Leish Theatre Reviews, 1961-68


Leish, Kenneth.


Kenneth W. Leish Theatre Reviews, 1961-68




1 archival box, 1.25 linear feet.

5 hard cover 3-ring binders. 1 1-inch binder, 2 3-inch binders, 2 2-inch binders

Contains newsprint clippings from Variety Magazine, letters from readers, memos from editors and Leish’s annotations.


Biographical Note

Kenneth W. Leish (Kenn.) was a freelance drama critic in New York City from 1961-1966 for Variety Magazine. Variety’s policy did not allow the use of critic’s full names, and Leish signed his reviews “Kenn.”

Leish was born in Cambridge, MA in 1936. He grew up in Boston and Brockton, where he attended many shows at Boston’s renowned theaters, the Shubert, the Wilbur, and Emerson’s Colonial Theatre and Cutler Majestic Theatre. His usual seat was in the second-story balconies (the cheap seats!). At the time many Broadway productions had Boston try-outs before bowing on Broadway. It was not uncommon for shows to undergo major revisions, deletions or additions of songs during these Boston-based runs. Boston was also a prime engagement for second companies and touring editions of Broadway hits.

Leish graduated magna cum laude from Harvard in 1958 as an English major with a thesis on Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. He then attended the Columbia graduate school of Journalism in New York and remained there to work in publishing. Leish’s publishing career included 15 years at the American Heritage Publishing Company, where he edited scores of books on American history and the creative arts, and eventually became manager of the book division and vice president of the publishing company. Leish married Barbara Ackerman in 1966, with whom he has 3 children and 6 grandchildren.

Leish also worked at Bantam Books before becoming Vice President of Grolier Publishing Company. His projects included “Hello America,” a mixed media project for English language learners. Leish even wrote 2 books for Newsweek Books about the history of movies and the history of the white house. Nevertheless, Leish watched as many plays and musicals as possible, on and off Broadway. He retained all his theatre programs, which he then donated to the University of Missouri in 2018. 

Scope and Contents

Variety Newsprint clippings of reviews of off-Broadway openings, or follow-up reviews of long running Broadway shows, or shows with a new cast. Includes annotations by the author-donor. Occasionally includes letters and memos from readers, editors or cast.

Persons of note (award winners, or mentioned at least 3 times): Alvin Ailey, Alan Arkin, Leonard Bernstein, Ray Bradbury, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Rosemary Harris, James Earl Jones, Le Roi Jones, Linda Lavin, Ming Cho Lee, Liza Minelli, Jerry Orbach, Estelle Parsons, Harold Pinter, George C. Scott, Stephen Sondheim, Jon Voight, Billy Dee Williams.

The records may contain harmful language that reflects attitudes and biases of their time.


Collected, compiled and occasionally annotated by the original creator, Kenn. Donated to MU in 2018.


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Access Rights

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Spatial Coverage

Boston, MA.

Temporal Coverage