Performance design professionals, historians and arts audiences alike have reason to celebrate the publication of World Scenography 1975-1990. This lavishly illustrated, thoughtfully curated anthology documenting the most influential theatrical designs of the period is a work of rigorous scholarship as well as an aesthetic delight.
The book is co-edited by Peter McKinnon, professor of stage design and production in the Department of Theatre, Faculty of Fine Arts at York University (Toronto), and Eric Fielding, professor emeritus of scenic design at Brigham Young University (Utah).
World Scenography 1975-1990 includes set, lighting and costume design for all forms of performance, from theatre and dance to opera and spectacle. It encompasses material from hundreds of contributors and highlights circa 430 works from more than five dozen countries. Neither encyclopedic nor a collection of “greatest hits,” it showcases designs that made a difference: designs that mattered, seminal designs that had a major impact on the development of the art form, its practice, and reception.
Featured designers include Tony and Drama Desk Award-winner Maria Bjornson of France/UK (Phantom of the Opera, 1988); German designer Achim Freyer, winner of the Prague Quadrennial’s lifetime achievement award (Woyzek, 1989; The Magic Flute, 1982); Sun-Hi Shin of Korea (A Bicycle, 1983; An Encounter, 1990); Canadian designer André Caron (Cirque Réinventé, 1987 for Cirque du Soleil); and veteran Broadway designer Robin Wagner (A Chorus Line, 1976; On The Twentieth Century, 1978; Dreamgirls, 1981).
Ground-breaking productions highlighted include English director Peter Brook’s Mahabarata (1985), which was staged in quarries in France and Australia as well as theatres in the US and Spain; the opening ceremony for the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland; and the political puppetry of the American Anti-Bicentennial Pageant at the University of California (1975).
Among the many other notable designers documented are Boris Aronson, David Borovsky, John Bury, Richard Foreman, David Hockney, Tadeusz Kantor, Yannis Kokkos, Ralph Koltai, Valery Levental, William Ivey Long, Alejandro Luna, John Napier, Cameron Porteous, Josef Svoboda, Ichiro Takada, Joe Vanek, Ladislav Vychodil, and Robert Wilson.
McKinnon and Fielding led an international team of researchers and associate editors to produce World Scenography 1975-1990. The World Scenography book series was inspired by and seeks to build on the foundation established by the four volumes of Stage Design Throughout the World that were edited by Belgian professor René Hainaux. Sadly, that wonderful series ended its documentation and publication in 1975. This new book series started with a remark from Eric Fielding at the Honourable Scenographers’ Forum at the Prague Quadrennial in 2007 and a proposal by Peter McKinnon during their dinner that followed. McKinnon and Fielding plan to do two more volumes documenting 1990-2005 and 2005-2015. They then hope that others will pick up the torch and prepare subsequent volumes each decade thereafter.