Celebrating Carnival

April 11: A Wellness Event at Thompson Library: Celebrating Carnival: Engage in dances of Soca, Samba, and come dressed in your best Carnival costume. Following the class, tour the Thompson Libraries’ current exhibit Dancing in the Streets: Carnival from Britain to Brazil and Beyond.

Photo: Fire Goddess, Notting Hill Carnival, London, England, 2002. Photograph by A.R. Tompsett

Photo: Fire Goddess, Notting Hill Carnival, London, England, 2002. Photograph by A.R. Tompsett

Join Vice Provost and Director of Libraries Damon Jaggars and Chief Wellness Officer Bernadette Melnyk for a dance celebration! Engage in dances of Soca, Samba, and come dressed in your best Carnival costume. Following the class, tour the Thompson Libraries’ current exhibit Dancing in the Streets: Carnival from Britain to Brazil and Beyond. Curators Nena Couch and Lesley Ferris will share stories and special collections from Carnival. The dance celebration runs from 4:15 – 5:20 pm, with exhibit tours at 4:40, 5, and 5:20 p.m. Check-in begins at 3:45 p.m. This event is open to all Ohio State faculty, staff, students, and spouses/same-sex domestic partners.

2016 William Case Kramer Fellows

Meet the 2016 William Case Kramer Fellows!

By Cecelia Bellomy

It is the TRI’s pleasure to introduce the two William Case Kramer Fellowship recipients for 2016, Mandy Mitchell and Joshua Truett. I interviewed each fellow to learn about their completely different yet equally compelling plans for the research funds as well as their approaches to art and research.

Mandy Mitchell 2016 William Case Kramer Fellow

Mandy Mitchell 2016 William Case Kramer Fellow

Mandy Mitchell is in her first of three years pursuing a MFA in Acting, having received her B.A. in Theatre from Salem State University. With the fellowship funding, Mandy will be travelling to Morinesio, Italy this summer to take part in a week-long workshop on pageant puppetry. In Morinesio, a tiny village in the Alps, she will learn about various techniques of puppet construction and animation, focusing on those used in traditional pageantry. The week will culminate in two separate processionals in which the puppets she and other workshop participants made will be paraded through the town in a feat connecting to the village’s historical roots.

There is “something really wonderful and magical about puppets,” Mitchell says of her draw toward puppetry. They can do things actors “honest-to-God can’t do,” such as die on stage. Puppets are having a moment right now—“not a Muppet moment,” she assures me, a “real” moment. By this she refers to productions such as Avenue Q and Hand to God, both of which have been Broadway hits with huge puppetry elements.

In the same way that puppets are beginning to be used as conduits of adult drama, “in a dream world,” Mandy would find a way to combine puppetry with her passion for children’s theatre in order to “do puppet Shakespeare” as a “not stuffy first way” for kids to come at the Bard. In the short term, she plans on sharing what she learns in Morinesio in a lecture through the TRI, and she plans to use elements of puppetry in a one-woman show.

 

Joshua Truett 2016 William Case Kramer Fellow

Joshua Truett
2016 William Case Kramer Fellow

Joshua Truett is in his second of three years in the M.A. Theatre Performance, History, and Theory degree. He arrived at Ohio State with his B.F.A. from New York University and M.F.A. from California State University, Los Angeles. With his funding, Truett will be spending the month of May in Juchitan de Zargoza in the isthmus region of Oaxaca, Mexico. This part of Mexico is known for its “local festivals,” called velas, the most of which occur during May. During the month, Joshua will observe the velas and take classes at the local Cultural Center to learn the native language, Zapotec.

Truett will then return to Juchitan in November to attend the “vela of the muxes.” The muxes, he notes, are “an indigenous group that some scholars consider a ‘third gender’.” Joshua has a “strong scholarly interest in queer and trans identities” and “was drawn to Juchitan because it has often been called a ‘queer paradise’, because of the longstanding acceptance of the muxes in the local culture.” Truett also cites Juchitan’s world famous cuisine and an interest “how the production and consumption of food ‘performs’ specific cultural identities” as another reason for his research.

He will present the findings from his first trip to Juchitan at the Hemispheric Institute’s Ecunetro conference in Santiago, Chile this summer.

When I asked Mandy Mitchell about the role research plays in her discipline as a performer, she remarked, “we have to be the expert in the room…for our art to be good art,” or , to put it more simply, “you have to do all the things…[it] makes you better, makes you stronger,” she said with a laugh. In the near future, Mitchell can be seen playing Mash in OSU Department of Theatre’s production of Aaron Posner’s play, Stupid F*cking Bird.

Joshua Truett’s upcoming projects are various and vibrant, and include a script for a play about the first San Francisco gay riots, “a TV pilot about San Francisco’s first black female millionaire, known as Mammy Pleasant,” and  “an English-language Noh play” about Jacqueline Kennedy’s ghost haunting the site of her husband’s assassination. On the topic of art and research, Truett remarks that research, “will open-up new identities, places, and issues” which can be “integrate[d] into [his] art-making.”

Congratulations to Mandy and Joshua—it is easy to see that their research will have far-reaching impacts on the performance and study of theatre at large.

 

The William Case Kramer Fellowship, funded by the William Case Kramer Endowed Fund, was awarded for the first time in 2009. Kramer very much valued both the research at the Institute and the international research experience that Professor John H. McDowell encouraged when Kramer was a graduate student in Theatre at OSU, and the Kramer fellowship seeks to re-create that experience.

2016 Margo Jones Award

2016 Margo Jones Award honors Ricky J. Martinez

Ricky Martinez

 

Ricky J. Martinez, artistic director for the New Theatre in Miami, Florida, has been named the recipient of the 2016 Margo Jones Award, presented by The Ohio State University Libraries and OSU Arts and Humanities. The award honors those who have demonstrated a significant impact, understanding and affirmation of the craft of playwriting, and who have encouraged living theatre everywhere.

Martinez is a spirited Cuban-American “theatre maker.” As an award-winning director, Martinez has been invited to direct for the MFA Playwrights’ Workshop at the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, and Stanford University’s National Center for New Plays; James Madison University and the Forbes Center; Words A-Fire Festival in New Mexico; Ignition Fest at Victory Gardens, and others, in addition to his direction for New Theatre. Martinez’ risk-taking and collaborations with playwrights on more than 50 world premiere plays have lead to Pulitzer Prize finalists/wins and ATCA’s Steinberg finalists/wins, among other prestigious awards, with many have preserved for the American theatre landscape by being published. Nationally, Martinez has stayed an active champion for new works, participating on the Executive Committee for the National New Play Network (NNPN); the Advisory Board of the Latino Theatre Commons; the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) panelist (seven years); Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation; National Fund for New Musicals; PlayPenn; and San Antonio’s Luminaria Festival.

As a playwright, Martinez has been mentored by Arthur Kopit and Tina Howe; is an NNPN playwright alumni, and has works being read and produced nationally and internationally. Martinez is an accomplished actor, dancer, choreographer, singer, song writer, musician, community leader and theatre activist. He has recently been empowering hometown artists, as well as audiences, with the celebrated Miami 1-Acts Festival that provides a platform for Miami-centric voices of the next generation of theatre makers to be heard. 3

The award will be presented to Martinez at the South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center (Cutler Bay, Florida) on April 30 at a ceremony which will include such notable speakers as Carol Cadby, a 30-year Theatre educator who teaches at George Mason University, Signature Theatre, Synetic Theatre, The D.C. Theatre Lab Conservatory and Arlington Public Schools; and William “Bill” Schwartz, professional actor and New Theatre favorite.

The Margo Jones Medal commemorates one of the pioneers of the American professional regional theatre movement. Jones (1912-1955) supported and nurtured new plays at the theatre she founded in Dallas in 1947, including Tennessee Williams’s Summer and Smoke and Lawrence and Lee’s Inherit the Wind. The pattern she created for developing new plays is now a standard method for producing new plays in the living American theatre. Members of the Medal Committee are Deborah Robison for the family of Jerome Lawrence; Janet Waldo Lee, Lucy Lee, and Jonathan Barlow Lee for the family of Robert E. Lee; and Nena Couch, Beth Kattelman, and Mary Tarantino for the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute at Ohio State.

Margo Jones Medal

Margo Jones Medal

TRI fellowships application time

University Libraries Thompson Library Special Collections
Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute
119 Thompson Library
1858 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210
614-292-6614  Phone
614-688-8417  Fax
go.osu.edu/tri

2016-2017 Visiting Research Fellowships 

See form at bottom

Application deadline
15 May 2016

The Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute invites applications for two fellowships:

•    The Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Visiting Research Fellowship for scholars who wish to do research that requires significant use of the Institute’s collections.  The fellowship is $3000 for the period of at least one month, for research to be performed during the period 1 July 2016 – 30 June 2017.  A selected list of holdings with brief collection descriptions may be found at the Institute website, http://go.osu.edu/tri.

•    The Irwin and Jane Spector Fellowship for scholars engaged in graduate-level, post-doctoral, and independent research that requires significant use of the Institute’s collections on Dalcroze Eurhythmics. Fellowship stipends are $750 per week for a minimum of two and maximum of four weeks. For detailed information about the Dalcroze research resources of The Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute, please see collection finding aids:

Irwin Spector Collection: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/xOU-TR0010

Dalcroze School of Music Collection: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/xOU-TR0015

Dalcroze Society of America Collection:http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/xOU-TR1001

John Colman Collection: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/xOU-TR0013

Foreign nationals as well as United States citizens may apply.  Preference is given to applicants from outside the Columbus, Ohio, commuting area.

Fellows are expected to be in continuous residence for the period of the award. It is anticipated that during their residencies, fellows will share their work with the university community through a lecture, master class, or other appropriate means. A brief final report on research conducted during the residency must be submitted within two months after the completion of the residency.

The Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute holdings include design and technical theatre collections, personal papers, and organizational archives.  Through the University Libraries in association with the Department of Theatre, the Institute acquires, preserves, and makes accessible materials documenting the performing arts for the purposes of scholarship, education, and enjoyment; provides an active teaching component; serves as a source for new works creation, development, and reconstruction; and enriches patrons’ experiences of materials revealing our performing arts culture and history.

For further information, please contact the Fellowship Committee, care of Nena Couch (couch.1@osu.edu; office: 614-292-9606), Beth Kattelman (kattelman.1@osu.edu; office: 614-688-3305), or Mary Tarantino (tarantino.1@osu.edu; office: 614-688-4349).

Application-form2016

THE TRI DIGITAL COLLECTIONS

TRI Digital Collections Put Rare Materials at Our Virtual Fingertips

by Cecelia Bellomy

When a patron visits the Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute, an entire world of performance history comes alive before them. Everything from set models to celebrity correspondence to classic movie posters are available to be read, studied, and, in most cases, touched.

It may seem like one must be in Ohio to have an experience like this, but the not-so-secret secret is that the TRI, in conjunction with the Ohio State Knowledge Bank, OhioLINK, and Flickr.com, has many incredible collections available for view on the Internet. You can nerd out (or, you know, research) wherever you have a computer!

Digital Collections through the Ohio State Knowledge Bank:

The Knowledge Bank is a service of The Ohio State University Libraries that collects, preserves, and distributes the intellectual output of The Ohio State University. One of the many branches of the University with material in the Knowledge Bank is the Theatre Research Institute. We have three distinct and fascinating collections available for view here.

1. Charles H. McCaghy Collection of Exotic Dance, Photos, Cabinet Cards, and Tobacco Cards

Charles H. McCaghy is a professor emeritus of the Department of Sociology at Bowling Green State University who has published many books and articles on the topics of criminality, deviant behavior, and stripping. The collections materials come from his personal collection of burlesque and striptease research and memorabilia. Part of the much larger collection of exotic dance materials housed at TRI, this digital collection contains over 200 tobacco and cabinet cards from 1867-1890, featuring burlesque stars from the time.

Lydia Thompson cabinet card

Lydia Thompson cabinet card

Cabinet cards are small photographs printed on cards and tobacco cards were tradable photographs which were added to packages of cigarettes to stiffen the packaging. This collection includes photographs of Lydia Thompson who was instrumental in bringing burlesque from England and establishing it in America. Besides giving a look into the under-acknowledged history of burlesque, these photographs show how American beauty standards change with time.

2. Joel E. Rubin Collection, Pose Slides

Joel E. Rubin is a titan in the theatre world for his work in the field of lighting design technology. He co-wrote a seminal book on lighting design, Theatrical Lighting Practice, published in 1954, and he was also co-founder and Past President of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology. This digital collection  comprises over 150 pose slides and artwork for the slide design. Pose slides are glass slides on which a design is hand painted.

Joel E. Rubin Pose Slide

Joel E. Rubin Pose Slide

They were used to create a type of tableau vivant (“living picture”) performance that was popular in vaudeville at the beginning of the twentieth century. An actress dressed all in white posed against a white background. Then, when a slide was projected onto her, it appeared as if she was in a costume or in a unique environment. These unique designs come from Kliegl Bros. Lighting, where Rubin worked for many years and eventually became vice president. This collection of unique slides, everything from under-the-sea mermaid scenes to slides that make it look like the actress is being burnt at the stake, provide another window into American popular entertainment at the turn of the century as well as into the history of lighting design.

3. Scrapbook Collections

This digital collection is really two in one as it houses both our and the Actress Scrapbooks and the Burrill Henry Leffingwell Scrapbook Collection . Both collections are replete with information about theatre, dance, and film performance at the turn of the twentieth century. Some famous names (see Sarah Bernhardt) certainly come up. The Actress Scrapbooks collection is a group of twelve small scrapbooks compiled by a theatre fan about actresses of the time. They include photographs of famous actresses (and a few actors)  in costume and daily wear, at home and in productions.  One scrapbook of the twelve is a record of a playgoer’s theatre, opera, and concert experiences starting with The Merchant of Venice at Daly’s Theatre in New York in 1898 starring Ada Rehan as Portia. Of the thirty-four volume Burrill Henry Leffingwell collection, fifteen large scrapbooks archiving American theatre, opera, dance, and film in New York, Boston, Chicago, Paris, and Germany between the years 1880 and 1922 are available digitally. With their thorough compilations of photographs, reviews, and gossip pieces, Leffingwell’s archival work is almost encyclopedic. Best of all?

A screenshot which shows how the scrapbooks can be searched ("demille" at the top corresponds with the highlighted "DeMille" in the scrapbook.)

A screenshot which shows how the scrapbooks can be searched (“demille” at the top corresponds with the highlighted “DeMille” in the scrapbook.)

All of the TRI scrapbooks in the Knowledge Bank have Optical Character Recognition which means, you can perform a word search in any of them, rather than scrolling through hundreds of pages looking for information on one actress or production.

 

Digital Collections through OhioLINK

The Daphne Dare Collection

OhioLINK’s online Digital Resource Commons, a treasure trove of unique content from Ohio’s Colleges and Universities, is digital home to part of the Lawrence and Lee Institute’s Daphne Dare Collection. Daphne Dare (1929-2000) was a major name in costume design both in America and England. She designed for film (Carla’s Song), television (the first two seasons of Doctor Who), and theatre (Bristol Old Vic, The Royal Shakespeare Company), and became the Head of Design at the Stratford Festival, Ontario, where she designed over thirty-five productions.

SPEC_DD_DES_533_Costume rendering of Anya from The Cherry Orchard

Costume rendering of Anya from The Cherry Orchard

This digital collection of more than 1000 records holds mainly costume designs but also includes notes, production photos, set designs, and publicity materials. The designs cover an extensive range of mostly classical productions with a heavy emphasis on Shakespeare and Chekhov shows. The images show up clearly on the screen and an impressive zooming function allows viewers to see exactly how the lace should look on the hem of the dress, or the pattern the necktie should be.

Digital Collections through Flickr

The Charles H. McCaghy tobacco and cabinet card collection is also available on the photo-sharing website, Flickr. is also available on photo-sharing website, Flickr. This is the TRI’s most highly trafficked digital collection. While scrolling through all of the materials is easier on Flickr, the Knowledge Bank version of the collection has a search engine for pulling up pictures of a particular performer.

While nothing quite beats touching the paper Daphne Dare put her pencil to or smelling the old glue in a scrapbook, the Theatre Research Institute has made great strides in providing alternative ways of interacting with captivating collection materials digitally, and more are coming soon. Regardless of where the interaction is taking place, it is simply important that people do get to interact with them. So the next time the research bug bites or in the upcoming inevitable snow days, why not take the opportunity to experience performance history on your own computer, in your own room, on your own terms?

 

Sixty Years of “Inherit the Wind”

Celebrating Sixty Years of Inherit the Wind

By Cecelia Bellomy

Inherit the Wind

Inherit the Wind

On the sixtieth anniversary of Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s seminal play Inherit the Wind, the Theatre Research Institute celebrates an incisive work of drama that is just as relevant as ever.

As recently as 1992, there was a performance of the play somewhere in the world almost every day. Translated into over thirty-five languages, Lawrence and Lee, the former an OSU alum and both Ohio-natives, have made an international impact.

But what is so transcendent about the play? It is based on the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial in which a young Tennessee school teacher was charged and found guilty under state law for teaching evolution to his students. William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, two of the most popular American figures of the time, came to the tiny town of Dayton to battle the issue as opposing attorneys. Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate and renowned orator, represented Fundamentalist Christians in supporting the state law against the teaching of evolution while Darrow, an atheist and criminal attorney, famous for succeeding at such difficult cases as that of Leopold and Loeb, defended John Scopes and the teachings of Charles Darwin. The trial, which resulted in the conviction of Scopes, though with a much-reduced sentence, grew to enormous proportions in American culture. This was no mere court case, this was a battle of ideas, and those deeply held. On one side, Christians feared the loss of their faith to science, and on the other scientists feared the impediment of progress and knowledge due to religious beliefs. It was the first ever court case to have its sentencing broadcast live over the radio. It is clear to see why Lawrence and Lee were drawn to the Scopes Trial—it has at its center an explosive conflict, a dilemma with gigantic stakes for each side, represented no less by Bryan and Darrow, the larger-than-life figureheads for each team.

Lawrence and Lee turn William Jennings Bryan into Matthew Harrison Brady, a big-eating man with an even larger appetite to hear his own voice. He is motivated to do what he believes is sincerely right, but he is even more motivated to be adored by the American people. Darrow becomes Henry Drummond, an agnostic wit with a passion for individuality and human integrity. They set the play in the fictional small town of Hillsboro, USA, and add a former friendship between Brady and Drummond and a romance between teacher of evolution, Bertram Cates (analogous to John Scopes), and the local minister’s daughter, Rachel.

Inherit the Wind is not history, but a drama taken loosely from the pages of American history. In an article from The Columbus Dispatch in 1990, when Ohio State staged a performance of the play for Jerome Lawrence’s seventy-fifth birthday, Lawrence said, “This play is not about science vs. religion…It’s about everybody’s right to learn and teach without censorship.” This is the truly transcendent quality of the work—its universal theme of the human right to express one’s self and think freely.

The play premiered in Dallas in January, 1955 under the auspices of Margo Jones. Before Jones’ interest, no Broadway theatres were interested in the piece because it was too risky, but by April, ’55, the play was running at the National Theatre on Broadway with the same cast. Paul Muni (Scarface) originated the role of Henry Drummond, Ed Begley (Sweet Bird of Youth) played Matthew Brady for which he won the Tony for Featured Actor in Play, and Tony Randall played E.K. Hornbeck, the cynical journalist based on H.L. Mencken. It played until June, 1957 and had over 800 performances which set a record at the time for the longest-running straight play on Broadway. It has been revived twice since in 1996 and 2007, and there have been four separate screen adaptations featuring such actors as Spencer Tracy, Gene Kelly, and Jack Lemmon.

The play’s idea “is so current because everybody wants to stand up and say: ‘I have a right to think and believe as I choose’…Censorship is the real obscenity,” Lawrence tells the Dispatch. Truly in a world of battling ideologies and burgeoning human rights movements, now more than ever, we want to determine what we believe as individuals. Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s Inherit the Wind has the power to spark that desire.

At the end of the play, Henry Drummond, alone in the courtroom, the day done, the verdict announced, balances a copy of Darwin’s Theory of the Evolution and The Descent of Man in one hand and a copy of the Bible in the other, slaps them together, puts them both in his briefcase “side by side,” and leaves. For Lawrence and Lee it is not about what you believe, but about having the freedom to determine those beliefs for one’s self.

Cited source: Grossberg, Michael. “Jerome Lawrence, OSU Celebrate with ‘Inherit the Wind'” The Columbus Dispatch 4 Nov. 1990: n. pag. Print.

 

Kim Turney, left, a master of fine arts degree candidate who is Rachel in Ohio State's November 17, 1990, anniversary production, gets advice from Frances Helm, who played the part on Broadway.  Newsphoto by Kevin Fitzsimons, from onCampus (11/15/1990)

Kim Turney, left, a master of fine arts degree candidate who is Rachel in Ohio State’s November 17, 1990, anniversary production, gets advice from Frances Helm, who played the part on Broadway.
Newsphoto by Kevin Fitzsimons, from onCampus (11/15/1990)

WELCOME DARNELLE MELVIN

 

TRI WELCOMES NEW METADATA TRANSFORMATION LIBRARIAN

DARNELLE MELVIN

By Cece Bellomy

Darnelle Melvin

Darnelle Melvin

Darnelle Melvin’s interest in preservation started with a roll of analog tape. Now he finds himself as Ohio State’s Metadata Transformation Librarian. I sat down with him to talk about his journey and the importance of preservation.

Vibrant ambient music pulsates from Darnelle’s computer when I come into his office for the interview. He turns it down as he talks to me, but the beat plays low throughout. This is definitely my first interview with its own soundscape. His inclination towards sound is explained when he tells me about his former work as an audio engineer. During this time, he was involved in numerous productions and projects, including live and studio recording, audio preservation, mastering, and radio production projects for Melvin Audioworks. Sound and, as an extension, its preservation is very important to him.

It was during his preparation to digitize his 2 inch and ¼ inch analog tape collection that Darnelle noticed that some of his analog tape was damaged by sticky-shed syndrome (another name for hydrolysis, he explains to me, it’s a condition created by the deterioration of the binders in a magnetic tape, which hold the iron oxide magnetizable coating to its plastic carrier), and his interest in preservation was born. When the opportunity presented itself, Melvin went back to school and received his Master of Library and Information Science from San José State University. While in graduate school his interest of audiovisual preservation expanded to include cataloging, classification and metadata inoperability. Now, moving all the way from San Diego California, he joins OSU Libraries Special Collections Description and Access to do just that.

Metadata is, as the word itself may give away, data about data. Basic examples of metadata would be the author and publishing information in the front few pages of a book. As OSU’s first Metadata Transformation Librarian, one of Darnelle’s projects will be migrating descriptive metadata (metadata that describes items from Special Collections’ Archives) from many databases into one centralized system.

Before I even got to ask Darnelle my question about the importance of archival preservation, he answered it for me. A self-proclaimed history buff and nerd, Darnelle is a firm believer in preserving historical records not only for their historical value, but also for their importance to the environment of a research university like Ohio State. The future of Special Collections metadata is certainly in good hands with Darnelle Melvin.

Costume Designers and Costume Makers: A Case Study in Collaboration

Theatre Research Institute Fellowship Lecture

Costume Designers and Costume Makers: A Case Study in Collaboration

Wednesday, September 23, 2015 – 4 p.m.

Room 2068

Drake Performance and Event Center

Bobbi Owen, Theatre Research Institute Fellowship Lecturer

Theatre Research Institute Fellowship Lecturer, Bobbi Owen

Part of the “magic” of the theatre” has to do with keeping some elements hidden,

but I would argue that the people who make that magic occur and their professions should be more visible.

Bobbi Owen, the Michael R. McVaugh Distinguished Professor of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is a professional costume designer who has worked with several theatres across the country. She also has written extensively on theatrical design and is the author of a monograph on costume designer Willa Kim. [The Designs of Willa Kim. New York: USITT in cooperation with Broadway Press, 2005.] In 2008 she was inducted as a Fellow to the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT).

 

THE OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES

TRI Fellow, Bobbi Owen Interview

Bobbi Owen Interview

by Cece Bellomy

“I’m having a fabulous time,” said Bobbi Owen, smiling during our interview in the Special Collections Reading Room. My question? “What do you find most enjoyable about the research process?” There are stacks of folders on her table and a smile on her face.

Owen is the current Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute Fellow for the month of September, Michael R. McVaugh Distinguished Professor of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and an all-around busy woman. She is a costume designer, a professor, and a researcher. She has published seven books and is currently working on two more. Despite her busyness, Owen is more than happy to answer all my questions, even going so far as to ask me about my own theatrical aspirations after our interview is over.

The first question I ask her is to go more in-depth about her research here at the TRI. A recent interest of Owen’s is “how it is designers achieve what it is they set out to design.” This has evolved into a narrower focus on the collaborative relationship between costume designers and “costume makers.” Rarely ever do designers on the mainstream level give their artisans exact descriptions of the way costumes should be made, leaving a fair amount of creative wiggle room for the makers. It is this complex relationship between the visions of the designer and craftsmen that will be the subject of Owen’s book. She tells me about a presentation she heard recently where it was argued that “a costume maker should have co-authorship credit with a costume designer.” Does she agree? “In the case they were talking about,” yes.

Owen’s work has brought her to the TRI for our extensive costume design collections. So far, she has viewed the Helene Pons Collection and the Daphne Dare Papers. When I asked her what collections materials she has been most excited to work with, she was unable to choose. She has enjoyed going folder-by-folder through the Helene Pons Collection, attempting to re-create the career of the designer famous for costuming Our Town and The Diary of Anne Frank, noting how much she enjoyed “read[ing] between the lines” of the materials. She has found the Dare Papers “equally stimulating but for very different reasons.” Dare designed costumes for the first eighty-seven episodes of Doctor Who, and the majority of her collection is a visual record of her career, which Owen has found “beautiful.” Owen also looks forward to viewing the Carrie Robbins Collection before leaving.

The culmination of this research will be a book of three case studies in which this designer/maker relationship can be explored. The first of the three cases will be Percy Anderson, the costume designer of many of the original Gilbert and Sullivan operas, who Owen studied at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin and whose design house was born from a soldier’s uniform company that went out of business at the end of the Napoleonic Wars. The second will possibly be Helene Pons, who was a high-profile maker before she was a high-profile designer. The third is to be determined, but will likely be a contemporary designer working in New York.

“If I had lived in the nineteenth century, I would have been one of those dressmakers who went to some rich person’s house and lived there for six months and made them their wardrobe,” Owen said when I asked her if there was an aesthetic running through her own design work. She most enjoys the period between 1890 and 1912 and has a self-proclaimed “light touch” when it comes to her designs. Owen, like any great designer, has an incredible love for detail which she also applies to her research, making detailed lists and sitting down with her notes at the end of each evening, distilling what she has learned that day.

Up next, Bobbi is spending part of October in New York with Broadway costume designer William Ivey Long (The Producers, Hairspray, Cinderella) about whom she is writing another book. Then it’s off to the West Coast for November and Abu Dhabi after that until she returns to Chapel Hill in January for another semester of teaching. We’re lucky to have her for these few weeks.

Collaboration is of the utmost importance to Bobbi Owen. “Nobody does anything alone,” she says at the outset of the interview. And the way her face lit up talking about her findings in the TRI represents still another collaboration—that between the researcher and the archivist. Without passionate individuals like Bobbi Owen, our materials would collect dust.

Bobbi Owen will give a talk on the collaborative relationship between costumer designers and costume makers at the Drake Performance and Event Center, Room 2038, on Wednesday, September 23rd from 4-5:30.

Dr. Simona Rybáková Delivers TRI Lecture

Dr. Simona Rybáková Delivers TRI Lecture

Dr. Simona Rybáková Delivers TRI Lecture

Dr. Simona Rybáková Delivers TRI Lecture

This year’s annual TRI lecture was given by Czech theatre artist Dr. Simon Rybáková on Wednesday, September 9th at the Roy Bowen Theatre in the Drake Performance and Event Center at Ohio State. Rybáková is a textile and costume designer who is currently part of a team working on the Theatre Department’s Responsibility, Morality, and the Costs of War symposium. She is leading the creation of a performance/installation that will be part of the event. (For information on the symposium visit http://theatre.osu.edu/events/conference-responsibility-morality-and-costs-war.)

Rybáková’s lecture drew a large audience from across Ohio State and the Columbus arts community. As part of her presentation she shared numerous images of costumes she has created throughout her career, focusing in particular on examples of “extreme costumes” created out of materials not always associated with the art of costume design and construction.

Rybáková studied at the College of Applied Art and Design, and then pursued her schooling at Studio of Textile Design of the Academy of Art and Design in Prague. In 1990, she spent six months as a visiting graduate student of textile design at the University of Industrial Arts in Helsinki, Finland. In 1995, she won the Swarowski Award (graduate study at the Rhode Island School of Design at Providence, R. I., USA). Between 1997 and 2009, she was the Czech Republic’s representative on the executive board of the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Artists and Technicians (OISTAT), and since 1997 she has been a member of the same organization’s commission on stage design. In 2007, she became a member of the European Film Academy. At the Prague Quadrennial 2011, she curated the international exhibition Extreme Costume. Apart from costume design and individual textile design, she has been involved in the media of designer textile prints and carpets, jewelry, sculpture, and drawing.

The TRI Lecture Series is sponsored by the Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee Theatre Research Institute and The Ohio State University Department of Theatre

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