The following is a guest post from Music Archivist Chris Hartten.
Peggy Clark (1915-1996) lit up the Broadway stage in ways very different from most stars of 20th-century America. Following her 1938 Broadway debut as a costume designer for The Girl from Wyoming, Clark soon established herself as a pioneer of stage lighting and one of the foremost women in technical theater.
She worked closely with notable scenic designer Oliver Smith throughout the 1940s and 1950s on numerous productions, including Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s The Flower Drum Song. Her continued success led to a trio of fruitful collaborations with producer George Abbott on Paint Your Wagon, Pal Joey, and Wonderful Town.
Clark’s expertise was highly sought outside the theater as well. In 1968, she was elected the first female president of United Scenic Artists Local and thereafter dedicated most of her later years to technical instruction. Although Clark has passed on, her early designs and production notebooks bear witness to the remarkable technological transformation and professionalization of stage lighting that occurred throughout the twentieth century.
The Music Division is home to the Peggy Clark Papers, a collection that includes correspondence, scenic renderings, light plots, cue sheets, notes, and other materials related to hundreds of her design projects between 1936 and 1982.