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  • World Scenography 1975-1990 ed. by Peter McKinnon and Eric Fielding
  • Natalie Rewa (bio)
Peter McKinnon and Eric Fielding, Eds. World Scenography 1975-1990. Taipei: International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects, and Technicians, 2012.

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Cover design for World Scenography 1975-1990, edited by Peter McKinnon and Eric Fielding (International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects, and Technicians, 2012). Designer Randal Boutilier used the eye as a central image for the cover to capture scenography's emphasis on the visual, which he then layered with the image of roots to allude to the raw materials and efforts in scenographic design.
Cover design by Randal Boutilier

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At over 400 pages and with a title as weighty as World Scenography, the editors of this volume continue a project documenting scenography that started in the mid-twentieth century. The earlier project, Stage Design Throughout the World,1 comprised of four volumes, was one of the most comprehensive publication projects of the International Theatre Institute (ITI) in the second decade of its existence. As a UNESCO body, its mandate was to promote international exchange among theatre artists and to support the profile of the performing arts after WWII.2 René Hainaux3 from Belgium was the editor of all four of these volumes, with contributions of texts and illustrations from the ITI centres. The first volume to appear addressed design since 1950 and was published in 1964; the next year the record was pushed back to 1935; and through the seventies two subsequent volumes advanced the record to 1975. It is within this tradition of striking an international dialogue about design in specific chronological frameworks that the current editors Peter McKinnon (Canada) and Eric Fielding (United States) conceived of their project in 2007. This current volume is under the aegis of the International Organisation of Scenographers, Theatre Architects, and Technicians (OISTAT)4 and builds on the momentum of the prestigious Prague Quadrennial, inaugurated in 1967, and extends the editors' own efforts to facilitate an international exchange as founders of the World Stage Design Exhibition (WSD), which takes place in the period between the Prague Quadrennials.5

The volume under discussion is the first of three comprising the McKinnon and Fielding project; the next two issues will cover the periods 1990-2005 and 2005-2015. The first of this series makes a timely addition to the discussion of design for performance bringing together the formal concerns of the Prague Quadrennial with a retrospective glance. Three hundred and eighty-six productions are documented in full colour. These images assemble aspects of process—sketches, technical drawings, maquettes, along with production photos. Each production is introduced by its title, the name of the designer, his or her country and specific responsibility—set, costumes, puppets, lighting, and/or projection design. Appendices at the back of the volume collect production, researcher, and photo credits so that the emphasis on the main pages is on the design. Additional indices enable easy searching by designer, title, author/composer, or director/ choreographer.

The volume is organized by the year of the production, and the first year proposes a documentation of iconic and intriguing crossover designs such as those by Brian Thomson and Sue Blane's for The Rocky Horror Picture Show, John Napier's for Equus, Noel Crombie's for the artistically coiffed and costumed band Split Enz (New Zealand), and Peter Schumann's for the Bread and Puppet American Anti-Bicentennial Pageant. This first year notes productions that have become the stuff of theatre history such as the two-dimensionality, by David Hockney for The Rake's Progress, that makes visual reference to the originary series of copper engravings by William Hogarth for the style of the set with an emphasis on magnifying the eighteenth-century technique of hatchwork; the expression of politics by Luis Valdez for La Carpa de los Rasquachis (an early production by El Teatro Campesino); and Julian Beck and William Shari's design for The Money Tree, a construction to play out the capitalist economy. The choices for this year insist on a focus on design for performance by the inclusion of the Samoan Fire Knife Dance, as...


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