Spanning the late 1800s into the twenty-first century, the artwork in the exhibition includes professional theatre design for drama and comedy, musical theatre, opera, dance, and outdoor spectacle - all for live performance and entertainment. One of the most exciting aspects of Design for Performance is the collaboration of Theatre MFA Design Students from the Advanced Scenic Design class with faculty curators to design an interactive exhibit space that highlights the exciting and diverse content.
Design for Performance's vast range of work includes renderings by the Columbus-based Armbruster Scenic Studio (1875-1958) which served Shakespeare and minstrel companies traveling throughout the Midwest, projections from hand-painted pose plastique glass slides (ca. 1900), Jo Mielziner designs for the convocation of nations establishing the United Nations (1945), RaoulDu Bois' Tony Award-winning set designs for the 1953 Wonderful Town, and Terry Parson's gorgeous beaded gown and feather coat for Marlene (1999). Visitors also will see three-dimensional models by Broadway designer Tony Straiges, horse-head masks for the 1974 Broadway production of Equus and designs for productions by companies across the U.S., on Broadway, by the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, and dance and ballet companies including the Twyla Tharp Company, American Ballet Theatre, and others. The Lawrence and Lee Institute is rich in international design and technical theatre such as the Daphne Dare collection documenting her work in England and at the Stratford Festival of Canada; outstanding holdings in Czech theatre; the collection of Romanian director/designer Mircea Marosin; and significant works by Russian designers.
Through their set, costume and lighting work, designers make the onstage world real for us. They welcome us to a familiar place or introduce us to an entirely new experience, creating places and times that exist in imagination. While the design reaches its final form in performance, documentation of design work remains as a reminder of the ephemeral performance, and as a record of the design process. That documentation takes many forms, a number of which are included in Design for Performance's set designs, set detail designs, set projection designs, curtain designs, ground plans, light plots, costume designs, projections, and models as well as realized work and photographic documentation of realized work. The media and techniques used by the designers are as varied as their artistic approaches.
The artists represented range from acknowledged masters of stage design throughout the twentieth century to contemporary designers. Master designers included in this exhibition are among those who have greatly influenced the development of American stage design. Work shown in Design for Performance is just a sample drawn from the design collections of the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute at The Ohio State University. Many collections and individual pieces combine to make the Institute's continually growing design collections an invaluable and rich resource used by students, faculty, and scholars in their research.