Yesterday was International Woman’s Day. I spent Tuesday knee-deep in drops at Julliard, but while I was there I was thinking about the leaps and bounds that women have made in the theater industry in the past 100 years. This industry is still a man’s world (Last year was the first time a woman has EVER won an Academy Award for Best Director) but it was even more so in the 1930’s when a group of British women got together to form Motley Design and set the standard for theater design to come.
The Motley Group was made up of the Margaret Harris and Sophia Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery, they designed sets and costumes from 1932 to 1976 and had shows in the West End, Broadway, as well as at the English National Opera and at the Met Opera. They designed more than — shows, won two Tony’s and were nominated 7 other times. They also founded two schools in the UK one at the Old Vic and the Motley School of Design which continues to this day.
“The Motley Group was highly innovative in designing sets and costumes that suggested the mood, architecture, and styles of the original setting of the play, but was not the rote duplication that had been done so many times before. They wanted to create an atmosphere that was artistic, in addition to having an air of authenticity. Motley set the standard for how Shakespearean productions should be staged” University of Illinois
Many of their designs and images are now on file at the University of Illinois and can be found here. I hope you find them as inspirational as I have.