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Museum and Gallery Tour

Sylvia Hillyard Pannell

"Give me a museum, and I'll fill it." Pablo Picasso

Would Mr. Picasso fill the museum with theatre designs? At least in part, as theatrical design was a significant facet of his magnificent, versatile, and prolific career. Nevertheless, it is the exception rather than the rule when the work of theatre artists moves from the actual limelight to be celebrated in the wonderful museums, galleries, and exhibition halls of our communities here in the United States.


The PQ07 exhibition team is busy planning a European and US tour of the USITT PQ USA 07 exhibit to follow the 2007 Prague Quadrennial. Please pursue the possibility of having this exhibition of the work of American designers, which promises to be extraordinary, visit your community, city, or state.

VP for International Activities Alexandra Bonds has described the "daunting and incredibly difficult task of representing visual and sound design in the United States in the last four years . . .undertaken by the USITT PQ 2007 United States National Exhibit team of curators Ursula Belden, David Budries, Laura Crow, Michael Lincoln, Madeleine Sobota, Susan Tsu, and Nic Ularu" in the September issue of Sightlines. This is a prime opportunity to bring the highly-touted USITT PQ07 exhibition to a museum, gallery, or exhibition hall near you.

Take a moment to consider the Prague Quadrennial (PQ), of which these exhibits will form an integral part. At nearly 40 years of age the Prague Quadrennial continues to hold great fascination and inspiration for theatre artists, especially designers, worldwide. What is this extravaganza that we so casually refer to as PQ?

Two men who have been intimately involved in USITT and OISTAT, (each has been president of both organizations) Richard Durst and Dr. Joel E. Rubin, have written about the development process in both TD&T and Sightlines. To paraphrase them:

During the 1950s and 1960s Czech and Slovak theatre and performing art design, known as scenography in Europe, was gaining world-wide attention, especially through the exciting work of Josef Svoboda who was involved with projects around the world. The Czech success in winning international attention for scenography and the interest of the Prague Theatre Institute, then under the leadership of Dr. Eva Soupucova, to serve as a bridge between theatre practitioners in the east and west led to an offer from Prague to host an international exhibition of stage design. Since PQ's premiere in 1967, the international exhibition has been held regularly every four years, and has come to be known as the PQ, Prague Quadrennial.

The PQ is now the pre-eminent scenographic (scenic, costume, lighting, and sound design for the performing arts) exhibition in the world, and one of the theatre design community's most important international scenographic competitions and events.

The PQ provided a bridge during the Cold War, bringing theatre artists from around the world together in a spirit of cooperation and exchange. Continuing to the present, the PQ celebrates innovations in theatre design by exhibiting thousands of designs from more than 50 counties from all of the world's continents. (Fifty eight countries will be participating in PQ 2007.)

The PQ has also served as a meeting point for artists from every continent by bringing together designers, directors, and students, as well as the general public, for seminars and workshops from around the world, creating an unprecedented opportunity for cross-cultural exchange of ideas. With four major categories of exhibits, National, Thematic, Architectural and Student, the PQ has been a major factor in shaping the direction of world theatre, and hence world culture, for the past 30 years. The PQ, including its various specialized accompanying activities, continues to be supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Czech Republic, and is organized and realized by the Theatre Institute in Prague.

While the first PQ, in 1967, had no US participation, we became involved in 1971 and have continued participation in each PQ since. In 1971 a group of designers from the USA went to Prague to see what it was all about. 1975 saw the USA and USITT participating in the exhibit for the first time and in 1987 the exhibit from the USA received the highest recognition of all the exhibits—the "Golden Triga Grand Prize."

At the close of PQ'87 the award-winning exhibit traveled to Amsterdam, New York, Cleveland, and Milwaukee where it was exhibited at the USITT conference, permitting many who could not make the trip to Prague to see, and be inspired by, the work of many of America's finest designers.

Planners looked back at the success of that 1980s experience and looked forward to PQ'07 marking the finest of recent designs and designers. This aided the decision to make these exhibits available not only at PQ, but also to those in Europe and the US.

Tour Director Robert Scales, who can be reached at, indicates that every attempt will be made to move the USITT PQ USA exhibit throughout the United States to a variety of locations covering as much of the country as possible. Length of each of the exhibit's stops will vary.

Participating institutions are encouraged to involve all the performing arts groups in their area. This exhibit is a good opportunity to promote the quality and diversity of performing art design being created currently in the US. Further information may be obtained through e-mail exchanges with Mr. Scales or by downloading the PQ Exhibit Brochure here. Also available is an Interest to Participate form.

The exhibit is expected to tour the USA from November 2007 through December 2008. The USITT PQ USA exhibit is available "at cost" and fees will be negotiated for each site. The "loan fee" will include items such as the exhibit travel expenses, insurance in transit, set-up supervision, and a catalogs. The specifics will be detailed in the Participating Institution Agreement that will serve as the loan agreement for each site. Copies of the Exhibit Tour Prospectus are available from Mr. Scales.

Please urge museum and exhibit hall directors to take advantage of this opportunity and urge them to consider exhibiting this handsome and exclusive collection of the work of American theatrical design and designers to enrich the knowledge and understanding of our unique art form among community members, neighbors, colleagues, students, and family.

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Shown above is a portion of the United States National exhibit for the 2007 Prague Quadrennial. After its "opening" in Prague in June 2007 it will then be available for touring to venues within the US. To learn how to host the national, student, and architecture exhibits, contact Robert Scales at

Design by Nic Ularu and Madeleine Sobota