Robert Edmond Jones

Definition

Theater

  • (1887 - 1954) US stage designer and director, who begana revolution in the US theater and remained Broadway's leading designerfor 30 years. Jones also helped to develop Technicolor for the cinema.His credo as a designer was "Keep in your soul some images ofmagnificence." In 1926 he published Drawings for the Theatre.

    After graduating from Harvard in 1910, he studied in Berlin(1912 - 15) with Max Reinhardt and the designer ErnstStern at the Deutsches Theater. On his return to New Yorkin 1915, he launched the 'new stagecraft' with his designs for theNew York Stage Society's production of The Man Who Married a DumbWife, directed by Harley Granville-barker, in which Jones placedbrilliantly coloured costumes in simple black and grey settings. Joneswas also one of the first designers for the theater-in-the-round,producing sketches on Shelley's arena production of The Cenciin 1920. He was also influenced by Gordon Craig (see Craigfamily), as is clear from the Expressionist designs he createdfor John Barrymore's Hamlet in 1922. Two years later Jonesdirected and created a multiple setting for Eugene O'Neill'sDesire under the Elms (1924); this led to further designs forO'Neill's plays with the Provincetown Players, of which he becamea joint manager. Despite using abstract designs, Jones worked fromreal life, travelling to England to see the Tower of London to preparefor Richard III, spending months in Venice for Othello,and studying original Chinese documents for Sidney Howard's LuteSong.

    During one production the designer Jo Mielziner (1901 - 76)was summoned to the costume workshop to encounter a 17th-century ladyin a splendid gown performing a genteel curtsy. Noting the richlytrimmed wig and the baroque pearl necklace, he suddenly became awarethat the face between them belonged to Jones. "You know, Jo,"laughed Jones, "most actresses really don't know how to wearthese things. I just had to see what it felt like."

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