An Intriguing Piece of History Learned at The Institute Library

Earlier today, Arts Council Communications Manager Stephen Grant and I attended a meeting at The Institute Library, where in November Theatre 4 will stage its annual “Acting Out” series. The get-together was intended as a way for Theatre 4 principals Mariah Sage, Jane Tamarkin, and Rebecca Jones, and playwright M.J. Kaufman, to learn a bit about the library itself.

This year’s “Acting Out” program will feature a new site-specific work by Kaufman, who graduated from the Yale School of Drama in May.

While telling those in attendance about The Institute Library’s rich history, Will Baker, the library’s executive director, offered up a piece of rather intriguing information.

The organization’s librarian in the late 19th century was a guy named William Borden, whose surname should evoke images of an ax-wielding woman named Lizzie.

As it turns out, William and Lizzie were cousins to whom Baker is distantly related.

Baker explained that his eight-times great-grandfather, Thomas Cornell Jr.,  had a daughter, Innocent Cornell, who was born after her father was hanged in Newport, Rhode Island, for allegedly murdering his mother, Rebecca — whose ghost had apparently haunted the town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island, upsetting the locals.

Later, Innocent Cornell married a Borden.

The joke at The Institute Library earlier today was whether her groom’s name was Guilty.

All joking aside, The Institute Library will no doubt be an excellent venue for Theatre 4’s site-specific theater production, a story about which I’ll be contributing to the November edition of The Arts Paper.

David Brensilver


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