Scope and arrangement
The Lee Watson papers date from 1941 to 1989 and document his career as a lighting educator and designer for theater, opera, and other live events, such as the 1962 Seattle World's Fair. The collection holds original and reprographic lighting and scenic designs, photographs, slides, and production files that contain programs, newspaper articles, scripts, and technical lighting materials.
Production Files document Watson's lighting design for theater and opera productions. Files are identified by show title, place, or theater. The extent to which each production is represented varies, though files generally hold scripts, clippings, photographs, and programs. Some production files from the 1950s contain only clippings and programs. More comprehensive files contain technical documents such as light plots and designs, equipment schedules, cue sheets, focus charts, channel and dimmer hookups, and lighting notes. Files identified by place sometimes hold material for multiple shows, such as those for Iowa State University and Fort Worth, Texas. Researchers interested in designs, cue sheets, focus charts, and other technical lighting documents should consult the designs in this collection.
Watson's lighting design for regional and university theater and opera productions is best-represented. He frequently designed lighting for multiple versions of Broadway, classical, and musical theater productions at colleges, theaters, and festivals across the United States. Among those documented in the collection are A Moon for the Misbegotten, Miss Isobel, Portofino, Othello, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Romeo and Juliet, The Boyfriend, The Poker Game, and The Chosen. Most of the shows were produced between 1960 and 1975 at the University of Houston, Houston's annual Theater Under the Stars festival, Long Island University's C.W. Post Theatre Company, the University of Michigan, the Philadelphia Drama Guild, Purdue University, and the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Operas represented in the collection include Aida, Carmen, La Bohème, and Madama Butterfly. All were shown primarily in New York and New Jersey. Other live events documented in the Production Files include the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, a Louise Nevelson sculpture show at the Houston Museum of Arts (1969), and industrials, such as product shows for Chevrolet and Pontiac. The 1962 Seattle World's Fair is represented through programs, clippings, and a script for The Threshold and the Threat, as well as notes on projection, light plots, scenic designs, channel and dimmer hook-ups, and stage lighting and control system equipment inventories.
The collection also holds subject files that examine more specific aspects of lighting design, such as projectors and projection. These files contain notes on Leko side projections, pattern projections, Trans-Lux teleprocess projectors, Eastman Kodak motion picture projectors, and Metallogen lamps. Photographs, projection diagrams and prints, catalogs, pricelists, and lecture notes and essays on projection are also present.
The collection holds lighting and scenic designs for over 100 plays, musicals, operas, ballets, and other live events. The majority of the designs are for regional productions and consist of final versions, working, and voided drafts of lighting and scenic designs, prologue sketches, light plots, and ground plans. Reprographic prints, such as diazotypes and blueprints, as well as hand-drawn sketches are included. Some designs are accompanied by focus charts or cue sheets. Among the best-represented productions are A Moon for the Misbegotten, The Chosen, The Poker Game, the 1976 and 1979 productions of Othello at the University of Michigan, and shows put on at the Missouri Repertory Theatre in 1970. Other productions of note include the 1962 Seattle World's Fair and the Broadway productions of The Diary of Anne Frank, Portofino, Do You Know the Milky Way?, and Girls of Summer. Several designs for the Cincinnati Ballet are also present, including general lighting designs and plots for spring and fall seasons between 1974 and 1979, and those for specific productions, such as The Nutcracker, Coppélia, and a ballet performed to Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Organ. Researchers should also consult the Production Files for more information on a given show.
Photographs and slides in the collection chiefly document regional and university theater productions from the 1970s to the 1980s. The 1982 Virginia Shakespeare Festival and a limited number of operas are also represented. The bulk of the materials are slides that are loose or housed in small, labeled envelopes by production, person, event, or place. The slides themselves are also generally labeled with the performance date and theater, actor, and designer information. In many cases there are only two to three slides for any given production. The slides are sometimes accompanied by photographs and negatives annotated with lighting and scene information. Some slides and small photographs contain rough notes and chapter, page, and figure numbers for publication and annotations on printing size, medium, and color. Productions and events are documented through photographs of cast and crew, stage sets, and rehearsal and performance photos. People are generally represented through headshots. Among them are Tharon Musser, Patricia Brown, Nannane Porcher, and Bill Klages. Some of the slides and photographs are images of light plots, projection figures, or story boards.
The collection is arranged into the following groups: Production Files; Subject Files; Photographs and Slides; and Designs. Photographs and Slides are arranged chronologically. All other groups are arranged alphabetically by show title, place, or subject. Productions are arranged first by event type, then by title, place, or subject.