The Music Division of the Library of Congress has acquired the papers of noted stage and film lyricist Howard Ashman. Ashman is best remembered as the lyricist (collaborating with composer Alan Menken) for the stage musical “Little Shop of Horrors” and the Disney animated film musicals “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin.”
The Ashman Collection is a joint gift to the Library from his sister, Sarah Ashman Gillespie and his life partner, William Lauch. The collection is a rich representation of every aspect of Ashman’s career and includes scripts and screenplays in various drafts, lyric sketches, music, notes, production materials, programs, posters, personal papers, correspondence, recordings and even some examples of Disney merchandise. After it is processed, the collection will be available to researchers and scholars in the Library’s Performing Arts Reading Room.
In addition to Ashman’s work as a lyricist, he was artistic director of the WPA Theater in New York from 1977 to 1982. He was also the author of the play “The Confirmation” and the director and librettist for the stage version of “Little Shop of Horrors.” He went on to write the screenplay for the 1986 movie adaptation. In addition, Ashman was the director, lyricist and librettist for the musicals “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” (also with Menken) and “Smile” (with music by Marvin Hamlisch). Ashman was the co-recipient of two Grammy Awards, two Golden Globes and two Oscars. In 1991, he died at the age of 40 due to complications from AIDS.
Ashman’s papers are the newest addition to the Library’s unparalleled collections in the area of the American musical. These include the collections of George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, Frederick Loewe, Alan Jay Lerner, Leonard Bernstein, Irving Berlin, Charles Strouse, Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon.
In addition, the Library, in conjunction with the record company PS Classics, has released the two-CD set “Howard Sings Ashman,” the latest in the Songwriter Series underwritten by the Library through the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trust. The series, under the supervision of producer Steve Nelson, features songwriters performing their own works and includes the CDs “Jonathan Sings Larson,” “Charles Sings Strouse” and “Hugh Sings Martin.” They are available at music outlets and retailers nationwide.