Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2002 Newsletter

New Eldon Elder Acquisition

Eldon Elder, c. 1960s. Photograph by Bill and Gwen Sloan.

Eldon Elder, c. 1960s. Photograph by Bill and
Gwen Sloan.

Set design, Love letters on Blue Paper, world premiere at Syracuse, New York, October 14, 1977.

Set design, Love letters on Blue Paper, world
premiere at Syracuse, New York,
October 14, 1977.

The Ransom Center received an extensive gift of material from the estate of Eldon Elder this past August. Elder, a noted set, costume, lighting, and theater designer and consultant in New York City, died December 11, 2000. This gift, the bulk of his working papers, joins three earlier gifts of items to document his lengthy career.

A native of Kansas, Elder studied at Emporia State College, the University of Denver, and the Yale School of Drama before embarking on a career as a successful designer of over 250 Broadway, off-Broadway, opera, and regional theater productions. He was the first resident designer for Joseph Papp at the New York Shakespeare Festival, and designed the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. Mr. Elder was the author of Will It Make a Theater, a guide to creating nontraditional performing space, and for many years taught stage design at Brooklyn College.

His work for the stage is embodied in a wealth of material: original set and costume designs, photographs, production scripts, programs, posters, scenic models, and theater plans, plus related correspondence, contracts, and other papers. Early family photographs and correspondence dating from his service in World War II, his school papers and student sketchbooks, the records of his design firm, Eldon Elder & Associates, and his teaching files and materials reveal other facets of his life and work. Elder's papers capture a 1978 intersection of his work with that of two Ransom Center authors: he designed productions for plays by Tom Stoppard (Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, Washington, DC) and by Arnold Wesker (Love Letters on Blue Paper, world premiere in Syracuse, New York). His papers give added scope and variety to the Center's already strong holdings in stage and theater design, which include the collections of Boris Aronson, Norman Bel Geddes, Gordon Conway, and B. J. Simmons & Co., among others.  

Joan Sibley
Visual Materials Coordinator


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