Edward Gordon Craig
For other people with the same name, see Edward Craig (disambiguation).
|Edward Gordon Craig|
|Born||(1872-01-16)16 January 1872|
|Died||29 July 1966(1966-07-29) (aged 94)
|Occupation||Stage designer, theatre director, theatre theorist, actor|
|Notable works||The Art of the Theatre (1905)
The Mask (1908-1929) MAT production of Hamlet (1911-1912)
Edward Henry Gordon Craig CH OBE (born Edward Godwin; 16 January 1872 – 29 July 1966), sometimes known as Gordon Craig, was an English modernist theatre practitioner; he worked as an actor, director and scenic designer, as well as developing an influential body of theoretical writings.
Craig was the son of actress Dame Ellen Terry.
The Gordon Craig Theatre, built in Stevenage (the town of his birth), was named in his honour in 1975.
Life and family
The illegitimate son of the architect Edward Godwin and the actress Ellen Terry, Craig was born Edward Godwin on 16 January 1872 in Railway Street, Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, England, and baptised at age 16 as Edward Henry Gordon.
Craig later wrote a vivid, book-length tribute to Irving.
Craig's sister was Edith Craig.
In 1893 Craig married Helen Mary (May) Gibson, with whom he had five children: Philip Carlisle (born 1894), Rosemary Nell (born 1894), Henry Edward Robin (born 1895), John (born 1896) and Peter (born 1897).
Craig lived with Elena Meo and their two surviving children on and off, in England and Italy.
May Craig would not consent to a divorce until 1932, after Craig and Elena Meo had permanently separated.
Craig fathered other illegitimate children: a daughter with actress Jess Dorynne, Kitty; a daughter with dancer Isadora Duncan, Deirdre Beatrice (1906–1913), who drowned at the age of seven with another of Duncan's children, Patrick Augustus, and their nanny; a son, Davidino Lees (1916–2004), with poet Dorothy Nevile Lees, and a daughter with his secretary/translator Daphne Woodward.
Craig lived in straitened circumstances in France for much of his life and was interned by German Occupation forces in 1942.
He died at Vence, France, in 1966, aged 94.
Further information: Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet
Craig asserted that the director was "the true artist of the theatre" and, controversially, suggested viewing actors as no more important than marionettes.
He designed and built elaborately symbolic sets; for instance, a set composed of his patented movable screens for the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet.
He was also the editor and chief writer for the first international theatre magazine, The Mask.
His acting career ended in 1897, when he went into theatrical design.
Craig's first productions, Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, Handel's Acis and Galatea (both inspired and conducted by his lifelong friend Martin Shaw, who founded the Purcell Operatic Society with him to produce them), and Ibsen's The Vikings at Helgeland, were produced in London.
The production of Dido and Aeneas was a considerable success and highly influential in reviving interest in the music of Purcell, then so little known that three copies of The Times review were delivered to the theatre: one addressed to Mr Shaw, one to Mr Craig, and one to Mr Purcell.
Craig concentrated on keeping his designs simple, so as to set-off the movements of the actors and of light, and introduced the idea of a "unified stage picture" that covered all the elements of design.
After finding little financial success in Britain, Craig set out for Germany in 1904.
In 1908, Isadora Duncan introduced Craig to Konstantin Stanislavski, the founder of the Moscow Art Theatre, who invited him to direct their famous production of Hamlet with the company, which opened in December 1911.
Craig was considered extremely difficult to work with and ultimately refused to direct or design any project over which he did not have complete artistic control.
This led to his withdrawal from practical theatre production.
His later career is remarkable for how little he achieved after the age of forty, during a long period of over fifty years.
While often working under his own name, Craig also signed work with a large number of other names, including Oliver Bath, Julius Oliver, Giulio Pirro, Samuel Prim, and Stanislas Lodochowskowski.
The Art Record noted in 1901 that Oliver Bath was “a gentleman who is believed to subsist on an exclusive diet of the famous Bath Oliver Biscuit”.
Craig's idea of using neutral, mobile, non-representational screens as a staging device is probably his most famous scenographic concept.
In 1910 Craig filed a patent which described in considerable technical detail a system of hinged and fixed flats that could be quickly arranged to cater for both internal and external scenes.
Craig’s second innovation was in stage lighting.
Doing away with traditional footlights, Craig lit the stage from above, placing lights in the ceiling of the theatre.
Colour and light also became central to Craig’s stage conceptualizations.
The third remarkable aspect of Craig’s experiments in theatrical form were his attempts to integrate design elements with his work with actors.
His mise en scène sought to articulate the relationships in space between movement, sound, line, and colour.
Craig promoted a theatre focused on the craft of the director – a theatre where action, words, colour and rhythm combine in dynamic dramatic form.
All of his life, Craig sought to capture "pure emotion" or "arrested development" in the plays on which he worked.
Even during the years when he was not producing plays, Craig continued to make models, to conceive stage designs and to work on directorial plans that were never to reach performance.
He believed that a director should approach a play with no preconceptions and he embraced this in his fading up from the minimum or blank canvas approach.
In his 1910 article "A Note on Masks," Craig expounds the virtue of using masks as a mechanism for capturing the audience’s attention, imagination and soul.
"There is only one actor – nay one man who has the soul of the dramatic poet, and who has ever served as the true and loyal interpreter of the poet," he proclaimed, and "this is the marionette."
On the Art of the Theatre (1911) is written as a dialogue between a Playgoer and a Stage Director, who examine the problems of the nature of stage directing.
Craig argues that it was not dramatists, but rather performers who made the first works of drama, using action, words, line, colour and rhythm.
Craig goes on to contend that only the director who seeks to interpret drama truly, and commits to training in all aspects of dramatic art, can restore the "Art of the Theatre."
Maintaining that the director should seek a faithful interpretation of the text, Craig argues that audiences go to the theatre to see, rather than to hear, plays.
The design elements may transcend reality and function as symbols, he thought, thereby communicating a deeper meaning, rather than simply reflecting the real world.
On 29 June 1908 the Polish theater director, playwright, and theoretician of drama Leon Schiller initiated a correspondence with Craig.
Together with his letter Schiller sent Craig, in Florence, his essay, "Dwa teatry" ("Two Theaters"), translated into English by Madeline Meager.
Craig responded immediately, accepting the essay for his magazine, The Mask.
This was the beginning of a productive collaboration between the two prominent theater directors, who introduced each other's theoretical writings to foreign readers.
The 32-box collection includes Craig's diaries, essays, reviews, notes, manuscripts, financial records, and correspondence.
Over 130 personal photographs are present in the archive.
The Ransom Center's art holdings including some of Craig's woodblocks from the Cranach Press Hamlet as well as proof prints made during production of the book.
The center's library holds over 300 books from Craig's personal collection.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward Gordon Craig.