Design in the United States and Canada

Authored by: Arnold Aronson

The Routledge Companion to Scenography

Print publication date:  October  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138917804
eBook ISBN: 9781315688817
Adobe ISBN:


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According to the standard narrative, the birth of US stage design 1 occurred in January 1915 with Robert Edmond Jones’ design for Anatole France’s The Man Who Married a Dumb Wife, directed by Granville Barker at Wallack’s Theatre in New York, as part of a double bill with Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion. Jones’ setting, done in shades of black, white, and gray – seemingly influenced by Adolphe Appia and Edward Gordon Craig – used simple geometric shapes, creating the impression of a wood-block print, and a feeling at once vaguely Japanese and medieval. This was a revelation for Broadway audiences more familiar with standard box sets, or scenes created by painted backdrops and stock scenery, the sort of scenery typified, in the derisive words of critic and producer Kenneth Macgowan, by “large-sized colored cut-outs such as ornament Christmas extravaganzas … [and] landscapes and elaborately paneled rooms after the manner of bad mid-century oil-paintings in spasmodic three dimensions” (Macgowan 1914: 418).

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