American Treasures of the Library of Congress: Memory, Exhibit Object Focus

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Orson Welles's "Voodoo" Macbeth

Costume designs for Macbeth
Nat Karson (1908-1954)
Costumes design for Macbeth
Watercolor with fabric attachments
Music Division (18, 18.1)

Costume designs for Macbeth

In 1936, Orson Welles (1915-1985) directed a New York City production of Macbeth set in nineteenth-century Haiti and portraying the witches as voodoo priestesses. The all-black cast were part of the Negro Theatre Unit of the Federal Theatre Project. The colorful costumes and jungle sets were designed by Nat Karson, later art director and set designer at the Radio City Music Hall and a producer for Broadway shows and television. Welles's highly successful production became famous for its dazzlingly original use of lighting and sound, particularly authentic voodoo drumming and chants. Macbeth launched the meteoric directing career of Welles, who was not yet twenty-one when it opened.

Performance photograph of Macbeth
Performance photograph of Macbeth,1938
Federal Theatre Project Collection
Music Division (19)

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