Curators’ Picks: The Art of Theatrical Design

The following is a feature from the May/June 2015 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM. Co-curators Daniel Boomhower and Walter Zvonchenko of the Music Division highlight items from the Library’s exhibition, “Grand Illusion: The Art of Theatrical Design.” This week is your last chance to stop by the Library to see what’s on display — the exhibition closes Saturday, July 25. You can also check out the exhibition online

td00011. An Imperial Production

Performed before the imperial court of Leopold I in Vienna in 1668, “Il Pomo d’Oro” (The Golden Apple) featured an elaborate set designed by Ludovico Burnacini. “Baroque-era court shows were not just theater, they were manifestations of power,” said Zvonchenko. “The proscenium stage concealed elaborate contraptions, which allowed for fire and brimstone in the sky. It was not unusual for theaters that featured such special effects to burn down.” Music Division

2. Ziegfeld Follies7749341

“John Harkrider designed most of Florenz Ziegfeld’s shows, which were popular on Broadway during the first few first decades of the 20th century,” said Boomhower. “This sheet music cover–demure by Ziegfeld’s standards–presents Irving Berlin’s “Tell Me, Little Gypsy” from the Ziegfeld Follies of 1920.” Music Division

77493913. Designing Women

Set designers Elizabeth Montgomery and Peggy Clark, who collaborated under the name “Motley,” were “trailblazers as women became more involved in show production and management, as well as other theater occupations,” said Zvonchenko. Pictured here is their watercolor design for the Agnes DeMille Dance Theatre’s 1953 tour. Peggy Clark Collection, Music Division

4. Oliver Smith’s “My Fair Lady”td0041

This watercolor and pen-and-ink set design depicts the scene in which Professor Henry Higgins discovers Eliza Doolittle selling flowers outside London’s Covent Garden opera house. “Smith was the first person hired for Lerner and Loewe’s 1956 production of ‘My Fair Lady,'” said Boomhower. “Before the director, before the cast–they knew who they wanted to design it.” Oliver Smith Collection, Music Division; Works of Oliver Smith © Rosaria Sinisi

Detail of the Grand Hotel set piece in "Grand Illusion: The Art of Theatrical Design" exhibition, March 20, 2015. Photo by Shawn Miller.

5. Tony Walton’s “Grand Hotel”

“This is the 3-D model of Tony Walton’s stage set for the 1989 production of ‘Grand Hotel,’ which was designed without an orchestra pit out front for Broadway’s Martin Beck Theatre,” said Boomhower. “We wanted to exemplify the idea of spectacle. The scenic designer is a co-director. Design tells you how the show moves.” Tony Walton Collection, Music Division; reproduced by permission of Tony Walton

Willie Nelson to Receive Gershwin Prize

(The following is an article featured in the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette, written by editor Mark Hartsell.) So great is his impact on music, even folks who never bought a country album instantly recognize Willie Nelson: the headband, grizzled beard and long braids; the quavering, nasal voice and off-beat phrasing; the sound […]

Inquiring Minds: Anna Coleman Ladd and WWI Veterans

(The following is a story written by Megan Harris of the Veterans History Project and featured in the Library of Congress staff newsletter, The Gazette.  )  Last month, eighth-graders Benjamin King, Maria Ellsworth and Cristina Escajadillo – all students at the Singapore American School – performed an original 10-minute play at the Library of Congress inspired […]

Book Festival Blogging

Calling all readers, the new Library of Congress National Book Festival blog launched this week! It’s one of the many ways that we will be celebrating the 15th anniversary of the nation’s premier celebration of books and reading. This year’s festival will take place during Labor Day weekend on Saturday, September 5, 2015, at the Walter […]

“First Among Many”

(The following is a story featured in the Library of Congress Gazette, the staff newsletter, written by editor Mark Hartsell.) The printing press that helped spread world-changing ideas of revolution, liberty and self-governance through early America grew from a humble beginning: a small, error-filled book of religious devotion, produced by a locksmith for settlers forging […]

Pics of the Week: Auntie Rosa Remembered

Rosa Parks is known as a pioneer of the civil rights movement, a heroine for her courage of convictions. Yet, few knew the other side of her life – one spent as a devoted mother figure to her nieces and nephews. One such niece, Sheila McCauley Keys, was at the Library last week to remember […]

Pics of the Week: We Write the Songs

Last week, the Library hosted the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) Foundation for its annual “We Write the Songs” concert, featuring the songwriters performing and telling the stories behind their own music. Taking the stage to perform some of their most notable music were Ne-Yo, Natalie Merchant (also formerly of 10,000 Maniacs), Donald Fagan […]

Library in the News: April 2015 Edition

April headlines covered a wide range of stories about the Library of Congress. The Library recently acquired a collection of rare Civil War stereographs from Robin Stanford, and 87-year-old Texas grandmother and avid collector. “The images are rich and incredibly detailed,” wrote reporter Michael Scotto for New York 1. Michael E. Ruane of The Washington Post […]

A Whole New Ballgame

(The following is an article written by Mark Hartsell for The Gazette, the Library of Congress staff newsletter.) The Library of Congress is taking its collections out to the ballgame, reaching a new audience in a new venue. The Washington Nationals in April opened an exhibition at Nationals Park that, through Library photos, explores baseball’s […]

Happy 215th Anniversary Library of Congress!

A Message from the Librarian Today, on the Library of Congress’s 215th anniversary, I want especially to congratulate the Library’s extraordinary staff for their work in building this amazing, one-of-a-kind institution. I am, and always will be, deeply grateful for all they do. The heart and soul of this great library always has been its […]