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In Memoriam: Sally Jacobs, British Stage Designer, 87

Stage Directions • Theatre Buzz • August 19, 2020

Sally Jacobs designed A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1970, with direction by Peter Brook. Photograph: Donald Cooper

British designer, Sally Jacobs has died at the age of 87. Jacobs was born in 1932 and studied at the Central School of Art and Design in London. She designed and directed theatre since 1960. Her work covered all of the major developments of the past 50 years—from the changing use of space and unscripted devised performance, experimental laboratories, large scale revivals of Shakespeare and opera, and site specific and performance art. She designed many of Peter Brook’s most influential works, including Theatre of Cruelty, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Marat/Sade, U S, Antony and Cleopatra, and Conference of the Birds.

Sally Jacobs

While living in in the U.S. she designed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, and New York, with Joseph Chaikin, Joe Papp, Richard Foreman, Edward Parone, and Gordon Davidson.

She returned to London in the early 80’s where she designed Die Fledermaus for the Paris Opera, Turandot for the Royal Opera – including a version for Wembley Arena, Fidelio for the Royal Opera, and Eugene Onegin and Die Soldaten for the English National Opera. Theatre designs include A Scots Quair – a trilogy by Lewis Grassic Gibbon, Three Birds Alighting on a Field by Timberlake Wurtenbaker directed by Max Stafford Clark, and four new plays for Paines Plough directed by Anna Furse – The Clink, Augustine (Big Hysteria), Down and Out in Paris and London, and Crossfire.

As director/designer her work includes Oedipus at Colonus for the Mark Taper Forum Los Angeles, Last Tango on the North Circular – a new opera by Peter Weigold, The War in Heaven by Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard, The Dancing Room – which was also filmed for the BBC by Simon Broughton, Me You Us Them – a performance piece which she devised in response to the Iraq war, and a staged version of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. She also made performance art, installations, and paintings in her studio.

Teaching posts included Senior Lecturer in stage design at the Central School of Art and Design, the Slade School of Fine Art, and Goldsmiths University, where she was a Fellow. In the U.S. she taught at the California Institute of the Arts, University of California, Los Angeles, New York University, The Actors Studio, and Rutgers University. Her archive was recently acquired by the Harvard Theatre Collection at the Houghton Library, Harvard University.

 

 

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