​Is It Real? Staging Nature

April 22, 2021 to September 30, 2021

 Located in the Brown Gallery

Tony Straiges, Maquette element for Mother's Tree in Into the Woods, ca. 1987. Painted board and paper, with found objects. Collection of the McNay Art Museum, Gift of the artist. © Tony Straiges

Theatre designers manipulate building materials—metal framing, Styrofoam, muslin, wood, paint, and electrical equipment—reimagining stages as dense forests, winter wonderlands, swirling oceans, or surreal landscapes. Costume designers stretch their imaginations, as well as the limitations of fabric and embellishments, to transform a performer into a tree creature, a flying owl, a supernatural fairy, or an earthly element. The new Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts exhibition, Is It Real? Staging Nature, explores the technical side of recreating aspects of nature—flora, fauna, air, water, fire, and earth—in performance.

To illustrate examples of these designs, Is It Real? Staging Nature presents artworks from The Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts that highlight nature as depicted in stories from opera, ballet, and musical theatre. Artworks by theatre artists Boris Aronson, Franco Colavecchia, Natalia Gontcharova, Helen Pond, and Tony Straiges create conversations with sculptures by artists like Mary Frank and Barbara Hepworth. In addition, a magnificent set-piece—an expansive tree trunk and four projected canopies—both anchors and umbrellas the exhibition, giving guests the impression of standing center stage.

Is It Real? Staging Nature takes root in the McNay’s Brown Gallery on April 22, 2021, and remains on view through September 2021.

Is It Real? Staging Nature is organized for the McNay Art Museum by R. Scott Blackshire, Ph.D., Curator, The Tobin Collection of Theatre Arts.

This exhibition is a program of The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund.