CNCF to exhibit works of Broadway set designer

| 14/06/2018
CNS Local Life

Oliver Smith’s set design for Camelot (credit: Rosaria Sinisi)

(CNS Local Life): Cayman National Cultural Foundation (CNCF) will be presenting a special exhibit of the theatrical designs of Tony Award-winning Broadway set designer Oliver Smith, from 26-30 June. The exhibit by Smith is part of CNCF’s arts and culture memorandum of understanding with the University of South Florida (USF).

Hosted at the Harquail Theatre, the exhibit is free and open to the public from 10am to 7pm each day.

Co-curator of the exhibition, Dr Patrick Finelli from USF, will officially introduce the retrospective at an opening reception scheduled for Tuesday, 26 June, from 6pm-8pm. Dr Finelli is a professor in the USF School of Theatre and Dance and has written extensively on scenography and the Oliver Smith archive.

In the pantheon of 20th century American scenic designers, Smith (1918-1994) is unmatched for his breadth of work in theatre, dance and opera, CNCF said in a press release.

During his career, Smith won eight Tony Awards, including two in the same year (1961) for Best Scenic Design of a Musical (Camelot) and Best Scenic Design of a Play (Becket).

Smith’s Broadway set designs began in the era when settings were primarily painted backdrops and spanned the period that featured more unit settings.

CNS Local Life

Set design for Jimmy (credit: Rosaria Sinisi)

While a consummate artist in the “painterly” tradition, Smith had a keen sense of stage space and anticipated the contemporary emphasis on architectural design, said the release.

“Since most theatre designs are working drawings to help the director, designer and scene shops to visualise the production and are often cast aside when the show opens, we are fortunate to have this unique selection of giclée prints to examine in this exhibit,” said Dr Finelli.

“Although full-scale production on the stage is the ultimate objective, many designers’ renderings, including those produced by Oliver Smith, are works of art worthy of exhibition in a gallery or museum, providing the opportunity to learn and enjoy. It also gives us a nostalgic look at stage design in the pre-computer era.”

This new exhibit offers rare insight into a prolific master scenographer with rarely seen examples of Smith’s extraordinary range, from the backdrop elevations for On the Town (1944), High Button Shoes (1947) and Swan Lake (1967) to the Diazo print drafting of the fire escapes in West Side Story (1957).

During his career, Smith created scenic designs for more than 60 Broadway productions including many iconic American musicals such as My Fair LadyHello,Dolly!; OklahomaBrigadoon; and Sound of Music. He also co-producer with Lucia Chase for 40 years at the American Ballet Theater, where he collaborated with Agnes de Mille (Rodeo), and Jerome Robbins (Fancy Free).

CNCF Artistic Director, Henry Muttoo said he hopes that by viewing this exhibit, “students of art and theatregoers in the Cayman Islands will gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the necessity of the scenic designer in theatre”.

The exhibit, which was also curated by Dan Carter of Pennsylvania State University, is on a short tour before the artworks take up permanent residence at Penn State where Smith studied architecture as an undergraduate. The project was partially funded with a grant from USF’s College of The Arts, major support from the Penn State Department of Theatre and private donations.

For more information about the Oliver Smith exhibit, call (949-5477) or email CNCF 

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Category: Arts

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  1. Anonymous says:

    For anyone with an interest in theatre, especially in scenic design, this is not to be missed!!