Announcing USITT24 Special Guest, Designer Beowulf Boritt
November 27, 2023
USITT is thrilled to announce that scenic designer Beowulf Boritt, the mind behind numerous Tony Award-winning productions, will be attending the Annual USITT Conference & Stage Expo in Seattle as a special guest! Check out his schedule below, and get ready to dive into creativity with him on Friday, March 22!
Friday, March 22 from 2:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.
Beowulf will take the spotlight, hosting a special panel titled Transforming Space Over Time. See what you can expect at his panel below!
3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Being an artist, creator, and maker in the technical theater world can be incredibly fulfilling, but when looking at ways to give back, move forward, and create positive change in the industry, what can you do? If you are Beowulf Boritt, you start a foundation for early-career designers from historically excluded groups who are working in live performance.
Hosted by Seattle Rep Managing Director Jeffrey Herrmann, this interview features designer Beowulf Boritt, the founder of the 1/52 Project, alongside project contributors Amith Chandrashaker, renowned for his Drama Desk Award-winning work in lighting design, and Johanna Pan, a distinguished costume and scenic designer who also received the 2021-2022 1/52 Project grant.
4:45 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. Finally, don’t miss your chance to secure your piece of creativity by meeting Beowulf in person on the Expo Floor, where he’ll be signing copies of his book.
For more details about Beowulf’s extensive design experience, and project 1/52, see below. His attendance is presented by the Scenic Design and Technology Commission.
To purchase a copy of Beowulf’s book Transforming Space Over Time: Set Design and Visual Storytelling with Broadway’s Legendary Directors, please visit the publisher’s website here. USITT will also have limited copies for sale at our USITT24 bookstore for the book signing session. We hope to see you there!
Here’s what you can expect at Beowulf’s panel Transforming Space Over Time, from Beowulf himself:
“The session uses three shows (2 on Broadway, one off-Broadway) as case studies for how I approach set design: Act One directed by James Lapine, The Scottsboro Boys directed by Susan Stroman, and Much Ado About Nothing directed by Kenny Leon. I start designing a set by reading the script and discussing it with the director. Good collaboration between a designer and a director sparks creativity in both directions—and everyone’s work is better for it. Although my focus is on visual storytelling, I think of theater as essentially a literary form. In film the primary communication is visual: motion pictures. In dance, the visual is paramount, usually in conversation with music. Music is the form of communication in opera; the words are secondary. But in theater—at least the kind of theater I tend to work on—the primary communication is literary: words. That literature—the words of the script—is conveyed by actors to the audience. All the rest, including the design, is frosting. Design enhances the experience, focusing the audience’s attention and enhancing the meaning of the words, but it’s not strictly needed. Still, I prefer my cake with frosting. Communicating place and time period can be an important part of set design, but I’d equate it to an actor being able to do a variety of accents. You ought to be able to do it, but it’s not what makes your work great. Establishing time and place is neither the most important nor most interesting aspect of the work. Visually representing the themes of the story is. My goal is to couple thematically evocative visuals with a considered transformation of the physical space as the story plays out. Set design is a kinetic sculpture that is constantly being manipulated to enhance the emotions and narrative of the story: transforming space over time. Thematic evocation and spatial transformation are my tools to create an intellectual concept to guide the scenery and support the story. Once that concept is clear in my mind, I can envision the style of the set: literally, what it will look like. When the process goes well, the frosting really does enhance the cake.”
Beowulf Boritt (Set Designer) had designed over 30 Broadway productions including the Tony Award-winning sets for New York, New York, and Act One, the Tony-nominated sets for The Scottsboro Boys, Therese Raquin, Potus, and Flying Over Sunset. Also on Broadway, Harmony, The Piano Lesson, Ohio State Murders. The Old Man and the Pool, Come From Away, Freestyle Love Supreme, Be More Chill, The New One, Bernhardt/Hamlet, Meteor Shower, A Bronx Tale, Prince Of Broadway, Hand To God, Sondheim On Sondheim, …Spelling Bee, LoveMusik, Rock Of Ages, Chaplin, On The Town (’14), Sunday In the Park… (’17), Bronx Bombers, Grace, and The Two And Only. 100 Off-Broadway shows include Shakespeare in the Park (Hamlet, Much Ado, Merry Wives, Coriolanus), The Last Five Years, Fiddler On The Roof (in Yiddish), Sleepwalk With Me, and Miss Julie. He has designed for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and designed around the world in England, Russia, China, Australia, and Japan. He received a 2007 OBIE Award for sustained excellence. Author: Transforming Space Over Time, about Broadway set design. You can find a digital collection of his work here.
The 1/52 Project, Founded by Beowulf, provides financial support to encourage rising designers from historically excluded groups with the aim of diversifying and strengthening the Broadway design community. The 1/52 Project is funded by designers with shows running on Broadway who donate one week of their weekly royalties (AWC) to this fund. For more information on the 1/52 project, visit their website here.