Writing the Monograph on William Ivey Long

by Michael Eddy
William Ivey Long Sketching (c)photo courtesy of William Ivey Long
William Ivey Long Sketching (c)photo courtesy of William Ivey Long

At USITT 2018, renowned costume designer William Ivey Long and professor/author Bobbi Owen were on hand to unveil, and sign, the monograph The Designs of William Ivey Long. The USITT American Designers Monograph Series is devoted to documenting the work of America’s best theatrical designers and is published by United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT). Stage Directions had the great good fortune to sit down and speak with both Long and Owen right after their book signing.

Long, a distinguished costume designer, has won six Tony Awards and has been nominated for nine more, along with a wealth of other honors throughout his long and illustrious career. This gorgeously illustrated, and well written monograph covers the scope of his remarkable body of work and his career, thus far. He is in fact, currently busy working on designs for multiple shows.

“This is the 12th monograph in the USITT American Designer series,” says Owen. “The series began with a monograph on my mentor, costume designer Willa Kim,” interjects Long. Owen notes, “I had done the one on Willa Kim, and I think part of the reason William was pleased to work with me is because Willa and I had such a good process, and she so enjoyed working on it. She kept saying, ‘Let’s do another one.’”

“It was just a great process,” adds Long. “The three of us were just great together. We would visit Willa near the end of her life—when she was 99. We just had such an easy connection, and camaraderie, and I just thought, ‘well, this is a sign. We should continue this in book form.’ So, that’s how it all came about. It was two years in the making and we were picking art for the book right up to the last second!”

Owen spent a lot of time researching in Long’s archive in Chester, MA. “There he has all of his sketches, his designs, his research, as well as many of his papers, and stacks of Playbills,” explains Owen. “I spent many, many long weekends there, going through all of those materials, first putting together all of the credits for the 350 shows that William has designed. Everybody knows about the 73 shows he’s designed on Broadway; nobody knows about the other 225, which was an important story for us to tell. I put together all of that work, and then I’d fly to New York from North Carolina, and William and I would spend a couple of days together, early in the morning over coffee.”

The hard work, travel and time have resulted in a much anticipated look at Long’s work and a wonderful peek into his work process. So anticipated, the book sold out every available copy that was at USITT. “We’re thrilled,” enthuses Long. “Yes, really thrilled,” concurs Owen, “That’s what we want in the theatre, standing room only. Can’t get in, sold out!”

If you missed the signing at USITT, there are additional book signings coming up, so be sure to mark your calendars. “We have a book signing at Drama Books in New York City on April 19th from 5-7 in the evening. We also have two different ones in North Carolina; in Chapel Hill at Flyleaf Books on Monday, May 14th and in Raleigh at the North Carolina Museum of History on Wednesday, May 16th. That’s what we’ve scheduled so far.”

We at Stage Directions highly recommend this informative and beautifully written book where you will learn so much about this truly visionary American theatre designer.The cover of the monograph: The Designs of William Ivey Long You can order a copy of The Designs of William Ivey Long at: http://bit.ly/IveyMonograph