Behind the pulpit of innovation : the design theories of Robert Edmond Jones and their efficacy as viewed by his contemporaries
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Robert Edmond Jones is considered the father of the New Stagecraft Movement in America. After completing his education at Harvard University he traveled to Europe to study the design practices of those individuals prominent in the new movements in theatre. Jones studied the theories and practices of Adolphe Appia, Gordon Craig, and Max Reinhart. Upon his return to the United States, Jones embarked upon a career of innovative design that steadily gathered an increasing amount of public attention. Most of this public response to Jones's designs was favorable; however, there were those who disapproved of the novel ideas that Jones brought from Europe. There were critics who not only disagreed with Jones's ideas, but with his execution of his theories of design as well. This is a study of Robert Edmond Jones's theatrical education and the development of his theories of design. Each of Jones's major theories of design are examined in depth. This is done in order to establish criteria for judging his efficacy in translating his theories to reality upon the stage. After each of Jones's own guidelines for design have been defined it will be necessary to look at his four most controversial designs and the public's reaction to them. In this manner, a comparison can be made between Jones's artistic intent and the perception the audience had of the final results. Many men espouse an ideal of what should be striven for within their field of endeavor. Robert Edmond Jones has been accused of violating some of his own theories of design, a charge resulting in a questioning of his credibiity as a designer and theoretician. This study of his practice examines the controversy of whether Jones simply expounded upon unrealistic and unrealized theory or whether he flagrantly ignored his own code for design for the public praise he might receive. This study concludes, however, that Jones adheres to the letter of his design theory and that those who condemned him for the disregard of his own teachings, sought merely to fight innovative ideas with criteria firmly rooted in tradition. Robert Edmond Jones was indeed an evangelist of design who stepped out from behind his pulpit of innovation to "practice what he preached."