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Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
Edward Gordon Craig
Edward Gordon Craig
Edward Henry Gordon Craig
(born Jan. 16, 1872, Stevenage, Hertfordshire, Eng. — died July 29, 1966, Vence, France) British actor,
stage designer, and drama theorist. He was the son of Ellen Terry. He acted with Henry Irving's company
(1889 – 97) and then turned to designing stage sets, decor, and costumes. He moved to Florence (1906),
where he opened the School for the Art of the Theatre (1913). His international journal The Mask (1908 –
29) made his theatrical ideas widely known. His books On the Art of the Theatre (1911), Towards a New
Theatre (1913), and Scene (1923) outlined innovations in stage design based on the use of portable
screens and changing patterns of light; his theories influenced the antinaturalist trends of the modern
theatre.
Edward Gordon Craig
(b Stevenage, 16 Jan 1872; d Vence, France, 29 July 1966). English theatre director, designer, theorist,
printmaker and typographer. He was one of the great, if controversial, innovators of the modern theatre
movement. The son of the actress Ellen Terry and the architect Edward William Godwin, Craig was born
into a strong theatrical tradition. He abandoned a promising career as an actor with Henry Irving's Lyceum
Company in 1897 to concentrate on directing and developing ideas about 'the theatre of the future'.
Inspired by Hubert von Herkomer's scenic experiments with auditorium lighting and three-dimensional
scenery in productions at the Bushey Art School, Herts, Craig exchanged the conventions of realistic
scenery for a suggestive, abstract interplay of form, light, movement and music. This new total theatre drew
on the imagination to create an architectonic vision of choreographic movement, colour harmony, visual
simplicity and atmospheric effect united under the sole control of a single artist. Influenced by his
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
relationship with the dancer Isadora Duncan, he also proposed a concept of the rhythms and movements in
nature acting as the vehicle for an emotional and aesthetic experience.
Edward Gordon Craig
Edward Gordon Craig (1872-1966) was an important actor, designer, director, and theoretician of the early
20th century European stage.
Edward Gordon Craig was born in 1872. He was the son of Edward Godwin, an architect who also did
stage designs, and Ellen Terry, one of the most revered actresses of the English stage. Craig's own stage
career began at the age of 12 when he appeared as a gardener's boy with his mother at Henry Irving's
Lyceum Theatre. At 17 he was accepted into the Irving company, and for the next ten years Craig's primary
interest was in acting.
Despite Craig's successes as an actor, he ended that career at the age of 25. Part of the reason for this
early retirement was Craig's belief that his idol, Henry Irving, personified the best in acting and that he,
Craig, could contribute nothing more to the stage than a copy of Irving's style. From his mentor Craig had
learned valuable theater lessons such as strict discipline in rehearsal; thorough rehearsal for a production
including the actors, the lighting, and the technical elements; and attention to detail. Although these things
seem standard today, they were innovations to early 20th-century theater.
Another reason that Craig left acting was his distaste for realism - the imitation of life - which was the
predominant style of the period. As early as 1893 Craig had begun to experiment with music and woodcuts
retaining only dominant forms and masses. He believed that art was not an imitation of life but rather an
expression of the inexpressible.
Surprisingly, Craig's first work as a director, No Trifling with Love (1893), at the Uxbridge Town Hall, was
executed in the style of historical realism. However, by 1899 he had developed his own form of theater
which he displayed in his first major work, a production of Dido and Aeneas. This innovative production
took eight months of rehearsal, included a cast of 80, introduced totally new lighting techniques, and
completely broke from the realistic tradition. Designed, directed, and choreographed by Craig, the
production evoked atmosphere and emotion rather than simply revealing time and place.
In Craig's next production, The Masque of Love (1901), he continued to develop his style, using three large
cloths as the basis of the entire set and sacks stitched together for the costumes - again simplicity and
mass created the entire illusion.
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
Edward Gordon Craig's practical work was not extensive, yet it helped to revolutionize the theater's growth
in this century. In 1902 he directed and designed Handel's Acis and Galatea; in 1903 he presented
Bethlehem and two productions which his mother acted in and produced, The Vikings and Much Ado about
Nothing.
For several years Craig collaborated with other theater innovators, including Otto Brahm, Max Reinhardt,
and Eleanora Duse. One of his most famous projects was a co-production with Stanislavsky (perhaps the
most influential theater director/actor of the 20th century) of Hamlet (1912). This production, known
primarily for its revolutionary setting of large moving panels, perhaps reveals the reasons that Craig left the
practical theater world.
Aside from his difficulties with personality conflicts (Craig was known as an eccentric), his ideas were far
ahead of his time. He believed in the director as the ultimate creator, one who must initiate all ideas and
bring unity to a production. He created the idea of the actor as "ubermarionette," whose movement was not
psychologically motivated or naturalistic, but rather symbolic. The actor should be like a mask for the
audience to interpret. Finally, he introduced a new stagecraft - one based on the magic of imagination
rather than on everyday details.
If Craig's actual work was limited, and sometimes impractical because of technical limitations, his writing
was prolific. In 1898 he launched the theater journal The Page; in 1908 The Mask (until 1929); and from
1918 to 1919 he wrote The Marionette. He also published The Art of the Theatre (1905), On the Art of the
Stage, Towards a New Theatre, Scene, The Theatre Advancing, and Books and Theatres, as well as
biographies of Henry Irving and his mother.
Craig's work in the theater and his writings have influenced many of the 20th century's innovators, including
Stanislavsky, Meyerhold, and Brecht. He continued to be a source of inspiration for many years - many of
the ideas that he developed in the early part of the 20th century were not realized on the stage until the
1980s. Edward Gordon Craig died at the age of 94 in 1966.
Further Reading
The most important and inclusive of Craig's own works are On the Art of the Theatre (1911) and Index to
the Story of My Days (1957). For thorough examinations of Craig's life and his work, including illustrations,
see Denis Bablet's Edward Gordon Craig (1981); Edward Craig, Gordon Craig: The Story of His Life
(1968); J. Michael Walton, Craig on Theatre (1983), which includes selections from Craig's writings; and
Laurence Senelick, Gordon Craig's Moscow Hamlet: A Reconstruction (1982).
Additional Sources
Carrick, Edward, Gordon Craig: the story of his life, New York: Limelight Editions, 1968, 1985.
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
Craig, Edward Gordon, Gordon Craig's Paris diary, 1932-1933, North Hills, Pa.: Bird & Bull Press, 1982.
Craig, Ellen Gordon, Edward Gordon Craig: the last eight years, 1958-1966: letters from Ellen Gordon
Craig, Andoversford, Gloucestershire: Whittington Press, 1983.
Edward Gordon Craig
Craig, Edward Gordon, 1872-1966, English scene designer, producer, and actor. The son of Ellen Terry,
Gordon Craig began acting with Henry Irving's Lyceum company (1885-97). Feeling that the realism in
vogue was too limiting, he turned to scene design and developed new theories. He strove for the poetic and
suggestive in his designs in order to capture the essential spirit of the play. His ideas gave new freedom to
scene design, although many were impractical in execution. Among his notable productions were The
Vikings and Much Ado about Nothing (both in 1903 for Ellen Terry) and Hamlet (with the Moscow Art
Theatre in 1912). At Florence, Italy, he founded (1913) the Gordon Craig School for the Art of the Theatre;
he also edited a magazine, The Mask (1908-29). He wrote On the Art of the Theatre (1911, rev. ed. 1957),
The Theatre Advancing (1921), Scene (1923), and biographies of Henry Irving (1930) and Ellen Terry
(1931).
Bibliography
See his memoirs (1957); biographies by his son Edward Craig (1968) and by C. Innes (1983); I. EynatConfino, Beyond the Mask: Edward Gordon Craig, Movement, and the Actor (1987); M. Holroyd, A Strange
Eventful History (2009).
Edward Gordon Craig
Edward Gordon Craig
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
Edward Gordon Craig (16 January 1872 – 29 July 1966), sometimes known as Gordon Craig, was an
English modernist theatre practitioner; he worked as an actor, producer, director and scenic designer, as
well as developing an influential body of theoretical writings.

Craig's mother, Ellen Terry, ca. 1880
The illegitimate son of the architect Edward Godwin and actress Ellen Terry,[1] Craig was born Edward
Godwin on 16 January 1872 in Railway Street, Stevenage, in Hertfordshire, England, and baptized at age
16 as Edward Henry Gordon. He took the surname Craig by deed poll at age 21.
Henry Irving, 1878
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
Isadora Duncan
Craig spent much of his childhood, from the age of 8 in 1889 to 1897, backstage at the Lyceum Theater
where his mother was the much-beloved leading lady to actor Sir Henry Irving. Craig later wrote an
especially vivid, book-length tribute to the unique, haunting, autocratic charisma that was Henry Irving.
Whether Irving's spectacularly successful relationship with Ellen Terry was romantic as well as professional
has been the subject of much historical speculation. (Most of their correspondence was burned by her
descendants). According to Michael Holroyd's book about Irving and Terry, A Strange Eventful History:
"Years later, when Irving was dead, Marguerite Steen asked Ellen whether she really had been Irving's
lover, and she promptly answered: 'Of course I was. We were terribly in love for a while.' But at earlier
periods in her life, when there were more people around to be offended, she said contradictory things."
Whatever the nature of Terry's personal relationship with Irving, it never marred their work or, astonishingly,
their reputation. Even before the Lyceum years, when Ellen Terry ran off with bohemian artist Godwin and
bore him two illegitimate children, Teddy (Craig himself) and Edy, Ellen's charm triumphed over Victorian
disdain. She was somehow able to maintain an exalted position in the hearts of her Victorian audiences,
regardless of how much and how often her behavior defied their strict moralities. Irresistible charm was her
special gift, as well, perhaps, as her legacy to her son. It is nonetheless likely, even in the protective
environment of the theatre, that Craig felt what Victorians thought of a child born out of wedlock.
In 1893 Craig married May Gibson, with whom he had four children: Rosemary, Robin, Peter and Philip.
With his lover Elena Meo he had two children, Nelly and Edward Carrick (1894–), art director of British
motion pictures. With his lover, dancer Isadora Duncan, Craig had a daughter, Deirdre (1906–13), who
drowned at the age of seven. Craig died in Paris in 1966 at the age of 94.
Career
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
Further information: The MAT production of Hamlet
Craig as Hamlet at the Olympic Theatre, 1897
Craig asserted that the director was "the true artist of the theatre" and, controversially, suggested viewing
actors as no more important than marionettes. He designed and built elaborately symbolic sets; for
instance, a set composed of his patented movable screens for a Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet.
He also was the editor and chief writer for the first international theatre magazine, The Mask.
He worked as an actor in the company of Sir Henry Irving, but became more interested in art, learning to
carve wood under the tutelage of James Pryde and William Nicholson. His acting career ended in 1897,
when he went into theatrical design.
Craig's first productions, Purcell's opera Dido and Aeneas, Handel's opera Acis and Galatea - both inspired
and conducted by his life-long friend Martin Shaw who founded the Purcell Operatic Society with him to
produce them - and Ibsen's The Vikings were produced in London. The production of Dido and Aeneas was
a considerable success and highly influential in reviving interest in the music of Purcell, then so little known
that three copies of the Times review were delivered to the theatre, one addressed to Mr Shaw, one to Mr
Craig ... and one to Mr Purcell. Craig had begun to develop his style. He concentrated on keeping the
designs simple so as to set off the movements of the actors and of light, and introduced the idea of a
"unified stage picture" that covered all the elements of design.
After finding little financial success in Britain, Craig set out for Germany in 1904. While there, he wrote one
of his most famous works, the essay The Art of the Theatre (later reprinted with the title On the Art of the
Theatre). In 1908, Isadora Duncan introduced Craig to Constantin Stanislavski, who invited him to direct
their famous production of Hamlet with the Moscow Arts Theatre, which opened in December 1911. After
settling in Italy, Craig created a school of theatrical design with support from Lord Howard de Walden.
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
Craig was considered extremely difficult to work with and ultimately refused to direct or design any project
over which he did not have complete artistic control. This led to his withdrawal from the practical theatre
production.[2] He received the OBE and in 1958 was made a Companion of Honour.
Legacy
Craig's 1908 design for Hamlet at Moscow Art Theatre, 1911-12
Craig's idea of using neutral, mobile, non-representational screens as a staging device is probably his most
famous scenographic concept. In 1910 Craig filed a patent which described in considerable technical detail
a system of hinged and fixed flats that could be quickly arranged to cater for both internal and external
scenes. He presented a set to William Butler Yeats for use at the Abbey Theatre in Ireland, who shared his
symbolist aesthetic.
Craig’s second innovation was in stage lighting. Doing away with traditional footlights, Craig lit the stage
from above, placing lights in the ceiling of the theatre. Colour and light also became central to Craig’s stage
conceptualizations.
Under the play of this light, the background becomes a deep shimmering blue, apparently almost
translucent, upon which the green and purple make a harmony of great richness.[3]
The third remarkable aspect of Craig’s experiments in theatrical form were his attempts to integrate design
elements with his work with actors. His mise en scene sought to articulate the relationships in space
between movement and sound, line and colour. Craig believed in a theatre of the craft of the director – a
theatre where action, words, colour and rhythm combine in dynamic dramatic form.[4]
All of his life, Craig sought to capture "pure emotion" or "arrested development" in the plays on which he
worked. Even during the years when he was not producing plays, Craig continued to make models, to
conceive stage designs and to work on directorial plans that were never to reach performance. He believed
that a director should approach a play with no preconceptions and he embraced this in his fading up from
the minimum or blank canvas approach (Walton 1983).
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama
As an engraver and a classical artist, Craig found inspiration in puppets and masks. In his 1910 article "A
Note on Masks", Craig expounds upon the virtue of using masks as a mechanism for capturing the
audience’s attention, imagination and ‘soul’. He also proclaimed “…There is only one actor – nay one man
(sic) who has the soul of the dramatic poet, and who has ever served as the true and loyal interpreter of the
poet. This is the marionette…” (Walton 1983), asking for actors to lose their prominence.
'On the Art of the Theatre' (Craig 1911), is an imaginary dialogue between a Playgoer and a Stage Director
examining the problems of the nature of stage directing. Craig suggests that the first dramatists were not
playwrights, but performers who made the first pieces of drama using action, words, line, colour and
rhythm. Craig goes on to contend that only the director who seeks to truly interpret drama and commit to
training in all aspects of dramatic art, can restore the ‘Art of the Theatre’ (Wills 1976). Maintaining that the
director should seek faithful interpretation of the text, Craig pointed out that audiences go to the theatre to
‘see’ not hear ‘plays’. A director must find the rhythm, movement, tone and colour of the text and these
elements are more fundamental than the play’s scene and staging details. The design elements can
transcend reality and function as symbols, communicating a deeper meaning, rather than simply reflecting
the real world.
See also

Leon Schiller—Craig's Polish director-colleague
References
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Bablet, D. The Theatre of Edward Gordon Craig, Eyre Methuen, London, 1981.
Brockett, O. History of the Theatre, Allyn and Bacon, Boston, 1994.
Craig, E.G. On the Art of the Theatre, Routledge, London, 2008, first published 1911.
Craig,E.G Isadora Duncan,Six Movement Designs, Leipsig 1906
Innes, Christopher. 1983. Edward Gordon Craig. Directors in Perspective ser. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521273838.
Holroyd, Michael. A Strange Eventful History, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008 ISBN 0701179872
Johnston, M. Directing Methods, Singleton Press, San Paolo, 1972.
Leiter, S.L. The Great Stage Directors, Facts on File, New York, 1994.
Steegmuller, F. Your Isadora: The Love Story of Isadora Duncan & Gordon Craig, New York:
Random House, 1974.
Taxidou, Olga. 1998. The Mask: A Periodical Performance by Edward Gordon Craig. Contemporary
Theatre Studies ser. volume 30. Amsterdam: Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 9057550466.
Walton, J.M. Craig on Theatre, Methuen, London, 1983.
Wills, R. The Director in a Changing Theatre, Mayfield, Palo Alto, 1976.
Cardonald College
Faculty of Creative Industries
Advanced Higher Drama