Craig family

Definition

Theater

  • The stage designer Gordon Craig (1872 - 1966) and his sister,the actress and director Edith Craig (1869 - 1947); they werethe children of the actress Ellen Terry and the architect E. W. Godwin(see Terry family).

    Gordon Craig joined his mother on stage at the LyceumTheatre when he was 16. His ego made him unpopular with fellowactors, who enjoyed landing blows on him during battle scenes. Thefirst production he directed and designed was Alfred de Musset's Onne badine pas avec l'amour in 1893.

    Craig spent much of his career on the Continent. In 1904 hetravelled to Berlin, where he designed a memorable production of Otway'sVenice Preserv'd, influenced Max Reinhardt, and hadan affair with the dancer Isadora Duncan. Two years later he settledin Florence, where he founded The Mask, a theater journal,and ran a school of acting. In 1912 he provided the designs for Stanislavsky'sHamlet at the Moscow Art Theatre. From 1929 he lived in France.He was made a Companion of Honour in 1955 but could not afford thetrip to London to accept it.

    Craig's theories were initially controversial - he wasonce labelled 'half-mad' - but many had become accepted internationallyby the end of World War I. In particular, he advocated a new kindof 'total theater' created by a master-artist combining the rolesof director and designer. To Craig, a play was primarily a visualrather than a literary experience. He denounced playwrights for overemphasizingthe role of words, and star actors for their self-importance. Hismost controversial idea was that actors should be reduced to the statusof ├╝ber-marionettes, or super-puppets, in the handsof the master-artist.

    Craig's designs were characterized by simple nonrepresentationalsets and dramatic effects of light and shade. He also experimentedwith moving screens, rostrums, and stairways. These ideas were setout in his book On the Art of the Theatre (1911); other publicationsinclude a biography of his mother and an autobiography, Index tothe Story of My Days, 1872 - 1907.

    Edith Craig also began acting with Ellen Terry atthe Lyceum. She managed her mother's 1907 US tour but soon afterwardsleft the theater to study music in London and Berlin. From 1911 until1921 she directed the Pioneer Players, also designing the costumesand scenery.

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