Typewriter exhibit showcases writers’ tools


CW/ Joe Will Field

Desi Gillespie, Staff Reporter

The Steve Soboroff typewriter collection has taken up residence in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center in downtown Tuscaloosa. The exhibit features the writing tools of Ernest Hemingway, John Lennon, Harper Lee, Truman Capote, George Bernard Shaw, Tennessee Williams, Tom Hanks, James Haskins, Maya Angelou, William B. Huie and Gore Vidal throughout November.

“I think this is a show that is geared toward the general public, it’s something we don’t have here very often,” Museum Director Daniel White said. “We’re not going to have these typewriters here again… It’s cultural enrichment for the community. We not only have the typewriters, but also the descriptive panels and memorabilia that goes along with it.”

Typewriters have seen something of a cult resurgence in recent years as symbols of both the literature they produced and the slower times they represent.

“I think [typewriters] are important because they’re a reminder of just how much has changed in relation to media and entertainment,” Auburn University student Justin Thomason said, “The typewriter has been lost to the history of progress… At this exhibit, you can reexamine the older, more romantic tool used to entertain readers.”

The typewriters of eleven 20th-century icons line the walls in the gallery, all under panels with information about their respective authors. Tables of magazines, signed books, and other items take up the center of the room. Three typewriters of different eras sit in the back for use, allowing visitors to feel what it was like to use a mechanical keyboard.

“It’s a way for people to interact with things they don’t see in their everyday lives,” White said, “You get to see these objects in front of you… these typewriters activate our imaginations to think about how these people interacted and used these things.”

Several events supplemented the “Alabama Types” exhibit in early November. A staged reading of Truman Capote’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” accompanied the experience of seeing his typewriter in the exhibit. The performance was held by UA Theatre and Dance in the black box theatre of the cultural arts center.

“There was a lot of pressure in performing this show because there is a legacy behind it,” Evan Price, a senior double majoring in telecommunication and film and theatre said. “Truman Capote is an incredible, historically prevalent writer, and the movie is universally adored.”

Price portrayed Paul Varjak, an aspiring writer who becomes romantically involved with the free-spirited socialite Holly Golightly.

“Holly is one of the most important female characters in film,” Price said. “It was the first time a female was presented on the screen in such a manner and behavior.”

Directed by Annie G. Levy, the reading of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” was an imaginative interpretation of the original film. Reflecting her director’s note thesis on Holly, Levy had five actresses read for Holly throughout the performance as a way of evoking the different aspects of the the character.

The performance utilized blocking, minimalistic props, sound effects and pictures from corresponding movie scenes projected next to the stage. Shots of iconic New York City streets and the image of Audrey Hepburn helped ground the audience in the reading.

“This film carries a lot of nostalgia with the crowd,” Price said. “I think the crowd found a lot of comedy and meaning in the performance along with [the actors].”

That same nostalgia and imagination surrounds the typewriters of the “Alabama Types” exhibit. These instruments of the most influential figures of the 20th century sit with the spirits of their writers, waiting to be seen and admired.

“I think we owe it to ourselves to see as a culture where we come from and where we are going,” White said. “These machines once drove the world, they drove the works of 11 people, some of the greatest works of the 20th century.”

Steve Soboroff, owner of the collection, will be at the gallery on Nov. 8 from 1:00-3:00 p.m. “Alabama Types: Poets, Playwrights & Storytellers” will be on display in the Dinah Washington Cultural Arts Center through Dec. 7. For more information, visit cac.tuscarts.org or visit the gallery on Greensboro Avenue. Admission is free.