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HTC Exhibition Documents Life and Work of Edward Gordon Craig

Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966), perhaps the most influential theatrical designer in the first decades of the 20th century, was known for creating non-realistic, symbolist design rather than sentimental illusions. A master of the art of woodcut engravings, and a publisher, editor, book illustrator, and essayist, Craig's passions covered many art forms, but all were driven by his devotion to the theatre and by his conviction that he alone envisioned the grand design that would renew the life of the theatre. An exhibition, "Edward Gordon Craig and the Art of the Theatre," which explores Craig's life and work, continues at the Harvard Theatre Collection (HTC) in Pusey Library through May 30.

The son of the famous English actress Ellen Terry, Craig grew up in the theatre as an actor and creator of sets and costumes. He used abstract scenic elements and lighting to create striking, dramatic effects from simple objects, in contrast to the elaborate backdrops common to the theatre of his day. He employed movable elements and screens that could be placed on the stage in a variety of configurations. The exhibition includes a set of fretted wooden model screens that Craig used at his short-lived School for the Art of the Theatre, as well as a model stage with modular blocks to demonstrate the versatility of his design concepts.

Copies of The Mask, a journal Craig published in order to promote his own ideas about theatre design, are featured. Dorothy Nevile Lees, managing editor for The Mask, preserved editorial and publication records, as well as her 60-year correspondence with Craig, all of which are shown for the first time in this exhibition. These documents reveal the intricacy of their personal and working relationship, Craig's compelling character, and the details of his artistic work.

Throughout Craig's career he returned to Shakespeare's Macbeth and Hamlet again and again, reworking staging ideas and finding new meaning in the texts. The Harvard Theatre Collection exhibition documents this life interest and includes model screens and scenic elements, woodcut engravings, and documents that relate to several productions and publications of Hamlet by Craig. In addition, a notebook on Macbeth, which Craig annotated and illustrated over a period of 65 years, incorporates drawings, diagrams, stage directions, and comments about his own evolving interpretations of the play.

The Harvard Theatre Collection is open Monday through Friday, from 9:00 am to 4:45 pm. For more information, contact the Theatre Collection at 5-2445, or htc@harvard.edu.

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Last modified on Thursday, May 15, 2003.