The Harvard Society for Contemporary Art is now showing in its galleries in the Harvard Coop Building, the best exhibition it has given this fall. Entitled "Contemporary Designs for the Theatre: Settings and Costumes," it is one of the few comprehensive shows to be given on this subject in any gallery, and covers the field admirably. The show will continue through Friday, December 23.
Beginning with the period, a little over a decade ago, when a great revival of interest in the stage took place, the exhibition traces the development of stage design down to the present day. Emphasis has obviously been placed on the American stage designers, but enough foreign designs are being shown to indicate the trends in Europe, and to make the exhibition representative.
To us, the most striking pictures in the show are the two series of designs by Norman-Bel Geddes for "The Divine Comedy" and "Jeanne d'Arc." Both of these designs are built around permanent sets, the lighting being the only means of changing the scene and atmosphere. Neither of the projects were ever used, but are excellent examples of an imaginative treatment of settings for two well known themes.
Robert Edmond Jones, probably the most important of American stage designers today is represented by two of his drawings for the settings for "The Green Pastures," and the famous ship scene in Part II of "Mourning Becomes Electra," and several other settings, the best of which is the imaginative series for "Wozzeck," a short-lived play of a year ago.
Lee Simonson, the third of the trio of the "older generation" of stage designers has exhibited sketches for the play, "Red Planet" which opens in New York Thursday, and some amusing costume designs for "Le Pas d'Acier," a satirical ballet.
Some of the most impressive settings in the exhibit are the work of Jo Mielziner, who has done a good number of the settings for the Theatre Guild. His series of sketches for the "Red General" a play concerning the Russian Revolution, have a keen sense of theatricality and unusual atmospheric effects. It is interesting to note that he is now at work on settings for "The Emperor Jones" of Eugene O'Neill, which is to be produced by the Metropolitan Opera Company this winter. The sketch for the Throne Room scene from this play is included in the exhibition.
Mordecal Gorelik an exponent of the Marxian drama, exhibits three rather unimpressive settings for a socialistic play entitled, "The Man with the Portfolio."
All in all this is one of the most interesting exhibits this reviewer has seen for some time.