Broadway Design On Display At McNay Museum

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Douglas Schmidt, Scenic design for Grease, 1972. Collage on board with acrylic, ink, and varnish. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin.

Design elements for In the Heights, Spring Awakening, and Grease are part of the theatrical design exhibit “America On Stage,” at The McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, showcasing the work of theatrical scenic designers. Running through June 30, “America On Stage” offers the public an up-close look at the creative process behind the conception, design, and construction of theatrical sets.

From the windswept plains of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! to the densely packed apartments of New York City’s Washington Heights in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s In the Heights, America remains a source of inspiration and subject for many landmark musicals, plays, ballets, and operas. Drawn from the renowned Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts, “America on Stage” celebrates the uniquely diverse work of 20th- and 21st-century American designers on stages at home and abroad. The exhibit includes music, film, video, scene designs, costumes, drawings, and watercolors.

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Franco Colavecchia, Front cloth design for Treemonisha, 1975. Collage and watercolor on paper. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of the artist.

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“This exhibition was designed to be a fun and engaging adventure,” said Timothy Retzloff, Tobin Theatre Arts Fund curatorial assistant. “We want the galleries activated with people laughing, dancing, and singing as they explore the pioneering work of artists, choreographers, directors, composers, and designers behind some of the most beloved stage performances in history.”

Highlights include 15 maquettes, or small-scale models, for stage productions such as You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown; West Side Story; In the Heights; and Cabaret. A pop-up theatre within the exhibition shows scenes from the revival production of the Tony award-winning musical Spring Awakening, featuring a cast of differently-abled actors—some using American Sign Language.

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John Lee Beatty, Scenic design for Graduation, Act II, scene 6 in Carousel, ca. 1975. Colored pencil, ink, spray paint, and varnish on board. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of Robert L. B. Tobin.

“America on Stage” develops four central themes throughout the Tobin Theatre Arts Galleries: Broadway, Nostalgia, Breaking Tradition, and Social Justice. Each theme is represented by an array of exceptional artwork accompanied by a thoughtful soundscape, further enhancing the visitor’s sensory experience.

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