Tanya Moiseiwitsch

Honored by:The Theatre Department
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Tanya Moiseiwitsch is one of the twentieth century's pioneering figures in the area of theatre design. Not only did she emerge as one of a handful of women designers working professionally on an international level in costume design, but she also became a leading figure in the male-dominated world of scenic design. Her credits include notable productions in excess of 230. Her most recent award was an honorary doctorate conferred by the University of Minnesota in 1994. Moiseiwitsch (1914- ), British scenic and costume designer, is often remembered for her collaborations with director Tyrone Guthrie and the bold thrust stage and innovative auditorium she designed for the Shakespeare Festival Theatre in Stratford, Ontario (1957) and the similar Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis (1963). Moiseiwitsch began her career in London in 1934. The following year she went to the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, where she designed over 50 productions thorough 1939. She subsequently designed for the Old Vic beginning in 1944 and at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 1949, as well as commercial theatre in London and theatres in Italy the USA and Australia. She is most closely associated with the plays of Shakespeare, but notable productions include Oedipus Rex at Ontario (1954; film 1957) and The House of Atreus in Minneapolis (1968), both of which contain what is perhaps the most successful use of masks in the twentieth century. Beginning with her work at the Abbey, Moiseiwitsch's designs have been typified by simple, direct presentational sets that embodied the visual metaphor of the play. Since she generally designed costumes as well, there was a strong visual unity to her productions. With the polygonal stepped stages at Ontario and Minneapolis that jutted into the steeply banked auditoriums, Moiseiwitsch was able to eliminate most scenery and provide a space in which her highly textured costumes could be sculpted by light. This more abstracted and emblematic approach to theatre and scenic design, the visual bridge between modern and contemporary aesthetics, has been emulated by countless theatre designers for the past sixty years. Women in the theatre like Heidi Landesman who won a Tony Award for best scenic design for Big River (1985) and another for The Secret Garden (1991) owe much of their success to the battles fought and won and the inroads made by Tanya Moiseiwitsch, a woman of outstanding and continuing achievement. 7/1/96

Tanya Moiseiwitsch Stage Designer Dies at 88. Ms. Moiseiwitsch was the founding designer of the Stratford Festival and also designed its Festival Theater stage which became a model for other stages in North America and Britain. She was born in London in 1914 to the pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch and the violinist Daisy Kennedy. She attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and worked at the Westminster Theater the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art the Abbey Theater in Dublin and the Duchess Theater on the West End before her first collaboration with the Stratford Festival's founding artistic director Tyrone Guthrie at the Old Vic in Liverpool in 1945. When Mr. Guthrie became director of the festival before its first season in 1953 he hired Ms. Moiseiwitsch to design a stage that would return to the thrust style on which Shakespeare's own company played. A thrust stage juts out into the audience. Her design first in the theater tent and now in the Festival Theater has been widely imitated. She created variations on the Stratford stage for the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis where she had been the principal designer and for the Crucible Theater in England. Her designs also influenced the stages of the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center the Olivier Theater at the National Theater in London the Swan Theater at Stratford-Upon-Avon in England and others. Ms. Moiseiwitsch also designed stage sets and costumes including those for more than 40 Stratford Festival productions including the two plays of the inaugural season. She was associate director laureate at the Stratford Festival.


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