Meganne George, Beloved Theatre Production Designer, Passes At 52
Meganne George, Indiana-born beloved New York City theatre production designer, passed away on July 30th in her home on City Island. She was 52.
Ms. George created many of her most daring designs for avant-garde director Lee Breuer and experimental theatre company Mabou Mines. Her best-known collaboration with Breuer, Mabou Mines's DollHouse, caught fire with its New York premiere in 2003. An immediate critical success, DollHouse received two Obie Awards and an Elliot Norton Award Design Award nomination for Ms. George's costume design. Ms. George toured the world with the production from 2004 to 2011, with performances at theatres and festivals in Oslo, Stuttgart, Paris, Jerusalem, Hong Kong, Brisbane, Madrid, Toronto, Moscow, Rome, Edinburgh, Bogata, Seoul, and Athens, as well as dozens of cities around the United States. Her additional work with Mabou Mines includes Medea; Glass Guignol; Finn (NYSCA grant for costume design); Red Beads, (co-directed by Breuer and acclaimed puppeteer Basil Twist; Cara Lucia and Pataphysics Penyeach, both starring Mabou Mines co-founder Ruth Maleczeck; and Choephorae, an original production that debuted at the 2006 European Capital of Culture Festival in Patras, Greece.
Ms. George served New Perspectives Theatre Company as the Resident Production Designer for 19 seasons, acting as de facto co-producer on many NPTC productions and events, and lending her critical eye and excellent dramaturgical skills in support of dozens of playwrights and directors. She was a partner to NPTC Artistic Director Melody Brooks in selecting the annual and long-term production schedule and securing resources for the company.
Working with a wide variety of innovative theatre companies, including Adobe Theatre Company, Chain Lightning, AndHow, Double Helix, and Parity Productions, Ms. George contributed to some of the most exciting, challenging, and entertaining productions presented to New York audiences over the past 25 years.
Ms. George balanced her work in avant-garde theatre with designs for traditional theatre, classical opera, independent film, and even corporate clients. She designed the costumes for The Actor's Fund 2005 benefit, A Wonderful Life, starring Brian Stokes Mitchell, David Hyde Pierce, and Phylicia Rashad, which performed at Broadway's Shubert Theater. Ms. George was a prolific designer for the Bronx Opera, creating sets, costumes, or both for more than 20 operas produced by the company over sixteen years. She served as Production Designer for director Martha Pinson's award-winning short film, Don't Nobody Love the Game More than Me. She even designed and built Mardi Gras costumes for Elmo, Big Bird, and the rest of the Sesame Street gang for Celebrate!, a tenth-anniversary parade produced by Beaches Resorts in cooperation with Sesame Workshop.
Ms. George's designs attracted considerable attention and acclaim throughout her career. Her first honor was a 1994 OOBR Award for Outstanding Design for The Flapper Queen; she received additional OOBR awards for Three Musketeers in 1998 and New Perspectives's Taming of the Shrew in 2002. Ms. George also won the Best Design award for Mabou Mines' Cara Lucia at the 2011 First Irish Festival, and the 2007 FringeNYC award for Outstanding Costume Design for John Goldfarb. She was nominated for an American Theatre Wing Hewes Award (Cara Lucia, 2003), a New York Innovative Theatre Award (Little Suckers, 2005), and an Elliot Norton Award (Mabou Mines' DollHouse, 2007). Her design for Chain Lightning's 1998 production of Beyond the Horizon was profiled in T.C.I. Magazine and Backstage.
Born in Lafayette, Indiana, Ms. George attended elementary school in Scottsdale, Arizona. She discovered her love of theatre while attending Westlake High School in Austin, Texas. She received her BFA in Directing from Baylor University in 1989. In 1994, Ms. George became the first person to simultaneously earn Masters Degrees in Scenic Design and Costume Design from Ohio University. She was an Associate Professor of Theatre Design at Hofstra University from 1996 to 2001, and taught as a guest designer at Hofstra (2009), Barnard College (2008 and 2010), Bard College (2012), and New York City's High School for Classics (2009-2013). Ms. George belonged to United Scenic Artists and the League of Professional Theatre Women.
Ms. George is remembered fondly by all who knew and worked with her.
"We at Bronx Opera were lucky enough to work with Meganne on 23 productions since 2003," said Benjamin Spierman, General Director of Bronx Opera. "Her work was beautiful, and always enhanced everyone's visual experience of the musical stories we tell. We'll miss her work, but not nearly as much as we'll miss her. Meganne's spirit will remain with all of us; her humor, her kindness, and her smile. We were lucky to know her."
Bronx Opera maestro Michael Spierman announced that the company will dedicate the opening selection in its October 20th concert at the Lovinger Theatre at Lehman College to Ms. George's memory. The selected piece is Maurice Ravel's "Pavane." Bronx Opera also plans to dedicate both of the mainstage operas in its 2020 season-Mozart's Don Giovanni in January and Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride in May-to Ms. George
"Meganne was a superb design partner for Mabou Mines over nearly 20 years. She was talented and generous, flexible and surprising, as well as a terrific problem solver who prioritized the actor's needs. Meganne came up with some truly fabulous costumes for Mabou Mines. Her dry wit and sense of humor was a pleasure to work with. We will miss her dearly yet we're comforted in the thought that her legacy lives on in her work."says Sharon Ann Fogarty, Co-Artistic Director Mabou Mines.
New Perspectives Theatre Company dedicated its 11th Annual Women's Work Short Play Festival to Ms. George's memory.
"It was the last production she designed with us," remarked Artistic Director Melody Brooks about the festival, which ran from August 5th to 11th. "This festival has been largely made possible over the years by Meganne's genius in creating a playing space that worked for all the scripts in our small studio, and her dedication to getting us whatever we needed to keep it going. We cannot imagine the next festival without her."
Parity Productions will also dedicate its upcoming production of Mirrors, by 2018 Parity Commission winner Azure D. Osborne-Lee, to Ms. George, in honor of her work with the company since 2012 and her inspiration for the Mirrors production design. The production will run from February 29 to March 22, 2020, at Next Door at New York Theater Workshop.
"Our experience working with Meganne will never be forgotten. She wasn't just a designer, and this wasn't just a job. She brought so much of herself and her intelligence to the table. She saw solutions when other people saw problems," says Parity's Founder and Artistic Director, Ludovica Villar-Hauser.
Ms. George is survived by her parents, William and Sharon George of Scottsdale, AZ, and City Island, NY; her brother and sister-in-law, Jeffrey and Allison George, and niece, Sarah George, all of Pelham Manor, NY. Ms. George's family asks that those wishing to honor her memory make donations to one or more of the four companies with which she worked most closely: Bronx Opera, Mabou Mines, New Perspectives Theatre Company, and Parity Productions.
There will be a Celebration of Life on the evening of Monday, October 7th for family, friends, and colleagues to gather, celebrate, and remember Ms. George. RSVP to email@example.com to receive location.