Howard, Pamela (11 of 11)  An Oral History of Theatre Design

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  • Recording date

    2006-06-26, 2006-07-13, 2006-08-09, 2006-08-14

  • Recording locations

    Various locations, London

  • Interviewees

    Howard, Pamela 1939- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 11: Projects with students at CS; theatre design students and the experience of performing; relating drawings to space; work with writers and composers; using professional contacts within teaching. Influence of BE on PH; comments about working with John Willett [JW] to curate the 1982 exhibition ‘Caspar Neher: Brecht’s Designer’ at the Riverside Studios [RS]; feelings about this title; student performance related to the exhibitions; BB’s poem about CN ‘About a Painter’ after which the piece was named; description of the performance; mention that Ronnie Ancona was in the piece; student feedback on this experience. Description of student performance piece related to an exhibition about the Spanish Armada at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich; mention that the piece was called ‘Gone with the Wind’; remark about PH’s skill with titles; work with poet Adrian Mitchell; depiction of Elizabeth I in the piece. Mention of forthcoming piece of work about Oliver Cromwell. Benefits of student-led performances; criticism of acting courses which use theatre design students as free labour; changing course titles to ‘Design for Performance’. Mention of work with writer John Wells and composer Carl Davis [CD] at CS. Description of ‘The Dead Men of Paris Rehearse the Revolution’ created with CD; design project on ‘Danton’s Death’; relationship between practical and studio work; remark about working with students as a theatre company. [0:15:25] Background to ‘New Plays Project’ [NPP] at CS; literary manager’s office at NT; ‘The Rat in the Skull’ by Ron Hutchison later staged at the Royal Court; theatre designer’s perspective on staging plays; involvement of RSC literary manager Colin Chambers with NPP; collaborations between writers and designers; involvement of JHe in the project; JHe’s feelings about teaching; outcomes of the project; period of AC funding; ongoing collaborations; collaboration between Katrina Lindsay and Polly Teale; their later work with Shared Experience. [0:22:45] Changes in higher education funding; postgraduate courses. Description of various schemes for financing graduate exhibitions; reaction of London Institute [LI] authorities; formation of Theatre Design Trust [TDT] with students’ parents to finance projects; Design for Dance programme in collaboration with various schools of dance and choreography; creation of new works in the Cochrane Theatre funded by TDT. [0:28:44] Process of one-to-one teaching and learning in theatre design education; background to European Scenography Centres [ESC] Masters degree course; early meeting with theatre design teacher-practitioners; involvement of Professor Rod Bugg. Description of research into funding for the course; collaboration between theatre design courses in Utrecht, London, Paris and Barcelona; finance and organisation of the course; validation of the course in 1994; feelings about this achievement; decision to resign from running the course; dealing with international applicants; work of graduates from the course; life in academia. Becoming Professor emeritus of LI; decision to accept professorship; using this position. [0:44:03] Theatre design work during time at CS; amount of work; challenge of being an artist; teaching by example; teacher-practitioners. Mention of PG and RiE; ‘Cherry Orchard’; work with JM; political theatre; large scale work; ‘Border Warfare’ and ‘John Brown’s Body’; JM’s death from leukaemia; his work on the Sellafield site; films of the work for Channel 4; father’s response to this. [0:51:46] Terms of employment at CS; student numbers; organising time between teaching and theatre design work; value judgements in higher education; intensive interaction with students; student-led learning and lack of resources. [0:56:46] Further comments about AC Drama Advisory Panel; WRM and GOG exercise; cuts in funding for new writing; opportunities for young designers in studio theatres; reduction in funding for studio theatres; theatre design training bursaries; resignation from Panel. [1:02:55] Structure of theatre design departments within repertory theatres; associate and trainee theatre designers; increase in intake of student numbers without through-route into work; ‘log jam’ of theatre design graduates on the freelance market; re-titling of theatre design courses. Opportunity for theatre design students to compare theatre design education internationally at the Prague Quadrennial in 2007; passive nature of students. Story about a student from Wimbledon School of Art; the need for students to be more motivated. Story about a South African Student from Wales; [the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama]; remark that this is a good theatre design course; social responsibility of students; the need to stand out as a theatre designer. [0:16:11] Reasons for decision to leave CS; pace of work; ‘the episode of the tuna fish sandwich’; reclaiming own time; re-evaluating life; final ESC meeting in Prague. Comments about making big decisions in life; moving out of London; reactions to PH’s decision to leave ESC. [1:28:35] Shift in work from designing to directing; archive of PH’s work digitalised by the State University of New York; remark about selling work; looking at past work; tendency towards direction in early work. Story about idea for a ballet as a student; description of the design; use of projection screens. Mention of Edward Gordon Craig and BB; achievements over a long period of time; comment that PH’s work has consisted of story boards, production drawings, considers political contexts and involves the spectator rather than traditional theatre design; decision to direct and design; refusing offers of design work; reactions to this. Act of moving house and building a studio; significance of this within PH’s life; feelings about current situation; being in charge of own creativity; freedom of life at the moment. Initiating new pieces of work; invitation to design a Chekhov play at NT; decision not to draw another Victorian suit. [1:42:55] Feelings in the past about invitations to work at NT; PHa's comments about PH’s work; facilities at NT; contrast between home life and work at NT; importance of not becoming seduced by success; age as a barrier to employment. [1:47:07] Home life during busy period at CS; daughters’ perceptions of this; sudden death of mother in 1982; feelings about this; support from neighbours. Daughters’ education at Putney High School and Godolphin and Latymer School; Kingston College of Further Education and Richmond Upon Thames College; Leeds University, Central Saint Martin’s College of Art foundation course. Story about daughter Sophie’s decision not to take up place at Chelsea College of Art and Design; her skill as an artist; her jobs at Interiors Magazine and Forbes and Lomax light switch manufacturers; application to become a social worker; progress in this career; decision not to have a working lifestyle like PH; working hours; PH’s motivation to work. [1:55:55] Family’s visit to see ‘The Greek Passion’ which opened 10th June 2005; their response to the production; meeting of PH’s life and art; themes of the piece; reference to PH’s grandmother; importance of being the principal creator in this instance. Story about helping daughter to write an essay about ‘Coriolanus’ late at night. [2:02:38] Story about meeting second husband, Robert Potter [RP], a dramatist and playwright from California, in 1987; PH’s visiting professorship at the University of Michigan; trip to Santa Barbara; American academics and research trips; plan to split time between England and California after marriage; mention of working on adaptation of ‘La Celestina’ from Spanish. Story about the book RP was writing and how PH provided research material for this. Difficulty of maintaining relationships during busy period of work at CS; appreciation of own space. RP’s career; mention that RP and PH were married for five years; women and economic independence. Sister’s comments about PH’s house; MM’s life in comparison to PH’s. [2:16:42] Comments about getting married in 1959 aged 20; changes in contemporary society; PH’s generation as the end of Victorian values. Relationship with father after mother’s death; mention of his forthcoming memorial service; his relocation to Cambridge in later life; going on adventures with father to Duxford Museum and Linton Zoo. Writing poetry; poem called ‘Two Peas in a Pod’; deciding to avoid conflict in relationship with father. Feelings about forthcoming memorial service; cemetery in Birmingham; intention of not returning to Birmingham. [2:31:12] Further comments about poetry writing; interest in the form of poetry; comparison with drawing; objects in space; poem about the Renault 4 car written in Belgrade; poem about trip across the Baltic to Helsinki on a ship called the SS Romantica; poetry as a way of looking at off-beat things in life. Reading; interest in early literature; music; gardening. Directing operas; working musically; playing the keyboard. [2:37:55] Forthcoming work on a chamber opera, ‘The Marriage’ by Martinu, in Pittsburgh, America in 2008; mention of 2007 revival of ‘The Greek Passion’ in Crete. Thinking ahead about projects; plans for 2009; working on cultural Olympics in Sussex. [2:40:56] Recent conversation with Uncle Henry; his response to PH’s comments about him in her book ‘What is Scenography?’; feelings about this; visit from other architect uncle, Morris. [2:44:31] Story about PH’s move to Selsey; previous visits to stay there at the house of a close friend from art college, Susan Wedgewood was Evans and her husband, John. Story about Rebecca’s sixth birthday party in Selsey; buying house there while working in Belgrade in 2002; making the decision to move house as a new beginning. [2:54:01] Feelings about the process of making a life story recording; focus of the interview.

  • Description

    Life story interview with Pamela Howard (1939-), theatre designer.

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