January 27, 2015 "Grand Illusion: The Art of Theatrical Design" Exhibition Opens Feb. 12

Press Contact: Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Daniel Boomhower (202) 707-5683; Walter Zvonchenko (202) 707-8657
Contact: View the exhibition online.

The task of the theatrical designer—through machinery, lighting, scenery and costumes—is to transport members of an audience from their time and place to an entirely different world.

The Library of Congress exhibition “Grand Illusion: The Art of the Theatrical Design” will show how designers create their magic, with a behind-the-scenes look at stage productions, from the Baroque courts of Europe to the Broadway venues of the United States. Items in the exhibition are drawn from the Library’s unparalleled theatrical design collections.

The exhibition will open on Thursday, Feb. 12 in the Performing Arts Reading Room on the first level of the James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C. The exhibition is free and open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

“Grand Illusion” will close on Saturday, July 25. It will then travel to Los Angeles, opening at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in its Library of Congress Ira Gershwin Gallery in August 2015 and running through February 2016.

The exhibition features the work of 21 designers, including Nicholas Roerich, Robert Edmond Jones, Boris Aronson, Oliver Smith, Florence Klotz and Tony Walton, relating to 28 separate stage productions, such as “Show Boat,” “My Fair Lady,” “Grand Hotel,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Chicago” and those produced for Ballets Russes and Ziegfeld’s Follies. Additional items include music manuscripts in the hand of George Gershwin and Frederick Loewe, and letters and scripts by Ira Gershwin, Freddy Wittop and John Kander.

Among the theatrical designs are finished renderings, works in progress, technical drawings, and designers’ research materials supporting the development of the look, feel and movement of a production. The exhibition also features correspondence and documents circulated among designers and their collaborators that address importance of scenery, costumes and lighting in the conception and success of a production.

There are 43 exhibition items, including a scale model of the stage set for “Grand Hotel” by theatrical designer Tony Walton. An audiovisual presentation explores Walton’s creative process for the “Grand Hotel” production.

The exhibition items—most on public display for the first time—are drawn from the theatrical design collections in the Music Division of the Library of Congress, which document all genres of theater – ballet, modern dance, opera, musicals, comedy, drama and the variety stage. In recent years, work in film design has been added to the collections.

“Grand Illusion: The Art of Theatrical Design” is made possible through the generous support of the Ira and Lenore Gershwin Trust for the benefit of the Library of Congress.

Select items from the exhibition can be viewed online starting Feb. 12 at www.loc.gov/exhibits/.

The Library of Congress Music Division, with more than 21 million items, holds the world's largest music collection. Particular areas of strength include opera (scores and librettos), stage and screen musicals, chamber music, jazz and American popular song. The Music Division is home to approximately 600 archival collections, most of them the personal papers (including music scores as well as correspondence, photographs, legal and financial documents, programs, clippings and other materials) documenting the lives and careers of stellar composers and performers. For more information, visit www.loc.gov/rr/perform/.

The Library of Congress, the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution and the largest library in the world, holds more than 158 million items in various languages, disciplines and formats. The Library serves the U.S. Congress and the nation both on-site in its reading rooms on Capitol Hill and through its award-winning website at www.loc.gov.


PR 15-013
ISSN 0731-3527