Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Costume design’ Category

In celebration of the College’s bicentennial in 1821, we’re reprocessing several large collections in the archives. One of these is the Dramatic Activities Collection – material assembled by Tuffy McGoun, a professor of dramatics at the College. The collection documents the history of dramatic productions and activities on campus. It’s a long history – our first production ephemera dates from 1826!

In addition to giving a great overview of the dramatic life of the college, the collection is an excellent resource for showing trends in design over the decades. Nowhere is this more evident than in comparing several different productions of the same play. I’ve chosen two popular plays to show examples of how different productions handled costumes, set design, and publicity in different decades.

Our first play – The Rivals, a comedy of manners by Richard Brinsley Sheridan, was first performed in 1775. The plot follows the romantic intrigue between several visitors of the town of Bath, England, a popular holiday spot at the time. The play is somewhat forgotten today – though it did give us the term malaprop, derived from the character of Mrs. Malaprop (who unintentionally substitutes the wrong term for similar-sounding words throughout).

The first Amherst College production took place June of 1843. It was performed three other times: March 1896, February 1906, and May 1963.

rivals1

Program from the June 1843 production of scenes from The Rivals. Part of the Amherst College Summer Exhibition

rivals2

Program from the March 1896 production of The Rivals.

rivals3

Playbill for the 1896 production, performed at the Academy of Music at Northampton. Touts “college men. Costly scenery. Elaborate costumes.”

rivals4

Cast photograph of the 1896 “Rivals.” Annotations on the back state that this was the first College production to go on tour.

rivals5

The 1906 “Rivals” program, by the Amherst College Dramatics Association.

rivals6

Program from a Ware, Massachusetts performance. The penciled annotation says: “The night the curtain came down on Deroin’s head.” Frank Deroin (AC 1908) played the character of Bob Acres.

rivals7

The 1963 production program. Kirby Memorial Theater was built in 1938.

rivals8

A production photograph from 1963 depicting the characters Julia and Faulkland.

The second play I chose comes from Shakespeare – the Scottish play! Macbeth was performed at Amherst College in January 1910, November 1941, November 1965, and November 1995. The documentation for the 1941 production is particularly rich, showing the effort that went into the set design and costumes.

MacB5

A program for the 1910 performance. Note: this wasn’t quite a dramatic production, rather a “reading by members of the Junior Class in public speaking.”

MacB1

Costumes and set in 1941.

MacB2

MacB3

Behind the scenes in 1941.

MacB4

A set design sketch for the 1941 production.

MacB6

Program for the 1965 production. This aesthetic look persisted into the 1970s.

00000001

Program for the 1995 production.

 

These images represent only a small slice of the collection which stands at about 72 linear feet of material. As part of the Bicentennial project in the library, we’ll be digitizing a lot of this material in the coming years.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »