ARE GAYS MORE STARSTRUCK?
an art gallery review
by Harvey Perr
published December 7, 2007
Starstruck: The Magic of
now in exhibition through December 22
at Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation
26 Wooster Street, New York City
Tues – Sat, 12noon – 6pm
All lovers of theater have a treat in store for themselves if they get down to the Leslie/Lohman Gay Art Foundation before
December 22, where one of the great wings from the production of Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” hovers over a remarkable exhibit with
the slightly cumbersome but all-inclusive title “Stagestruck:The Magic of Theatre Design.” It is highly unlikely that a richer display of
the art of the designer could be imagined, and yet, there it is, the work of seventy-one artists in one gorgeously conceived space. The
intention of the exhibit – at once serious and even political – is to show off the work of gay stage designers and, in particular, the work
they have done in collaboration with other gay artists, a comprehensive group that includes playwrights, directors, composers, librettists,
and choreographers. The result provides ample evidence of how organic, how poetic, and how downright beautiful such collaborations are. It
is no secret that the theater or the ballet or the opera house is a final destination for many gay artists, and that it matters very
little, ultimately, who is gay and who isn’t, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to remind us that there is such a thing as a gay sensibility
and that it can be achieved through a collaborative creative process.
The list of designers ranges from the old guard – the likes of Oliver Messel, Cecil
Beaton, Irene Sharaff, Raoul Pene Du Bois, Ed Wittstein – to the more exciting newcomers – Gregg Barnes and Anna Louizos, to name just two
– and is enough up-to-date to include Kurt & Bart, those enfants terribles who designed the
costumes for John Cameron Mitchell’s “Shortbus” and whose latest work may be a first in film
history – a movie directed by a same-sex married couple. While the variety of artists represented is staggering, it is also true that not
all the work is of equal quality, and yet it is safe to say that everyone is bound to find some private nugget to treasure.
My own list of unique delights would include Robert Perdziola’s painterly costume designs for Oscar Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s
Fan” and a production of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” Lowell Detweiler’s elegant drawings for Edward Albee’s “The Lady from Dubuque,”
Scott Pask’s black and white sketches of his set designs for “Peter Grimes” by Benjamin Britten, Robert Indiana’s imaginative costumes for the Gertrude Stein-Virgil Thomson opera “The Mother Of Us All,”
David Hockney’s original drop curtain for the Glyndebourne Opera production of “A Rake’s
Progress,” the Stravinsky opera with a libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Robert O’Hearn’s masterful work on Peter Ilyich
Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and “The Queen of Spades,” Ian Falconer’s whimsical drawings and designs, Freddy Wittop’s fanciful costumes
for Jerry Herman’s “Hello Dolly,” and John Lee Beatty’s series of set designs, including one for William Inge’s “Picnic” which is far more
enchanted than any other set design for that particular play that I have ever come across.
There are also some truly handsome set models on display, the best of
which are Peter Harvey’s deliciously demented set for “Dames at Sea” and his beautifully textured design for the original production of Mart
Crowley’s “The Boys in the Band” and, on a more austere level, Donald Eastman’s work on “Death in Venice,” the Benjamin Britten opera that is
based on Thomas Mann’s classic novella. Mr. Harvey, who is also the curator of this show, is represented as well by a set design for a
production of Tennessee Williams’ “The Night of the Iguana,” which is infinitely more evocative than the original Broadway design. And one
hopes that George Platt-Lynes’ tantalizing photograph of Jacques d’Amboise in the daring costume designed by Paul Cadmus for him to wear in
the Lew Christensen ballet “The Filling Station” (with a score by Virgil Thomson and a scenario by Lincoln Kirstein) does not get overlooked.
With so many riches on display, this little gem could get lost.
harveyperr @ stageandcinema.com