Transformative Design (TDM 158A) Open Seminar with Robert O'Hara


Tuesday, October 6, 2020, 1:00pm to 2:30pm

a scene from Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolf: a Black woman in an light pink ballgown in the foreground while two Black women in blue and yellow dresses stand in the backgroundJoin Transformative Design: Introduction to Costume Design (TDM 158A) in a Q&A with Robert O'Hara regarding his work as director and playwright.

This event is open to the Harvard students only. RSVP via the link at the bottom of the page.


ROBERT O’HARA has received the NAACP Best Play and Best Director Award, the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play, two Obies and the Herb Alpert Award. Broadway: Slave Play. Off Broadway: He directed the world premieres of Jeremy O. Harris’ Slave Play, Nikkole Salter and Dania Guiria’s In the Continuum, Tarell McCraney’s The Brother/ Sister Plays (Part 2), Colman Domingo’s Wild with Happy, Kirsten Childs’ Bella: An American Tall Tale, as well as his own plays, Mankind, Bootblack and white photo of Robert O'Hara smiling at the cameraycandy and Insurrection: Holding History. His plays Zombie: The American and Barbecue world premiered at Woolly Mammoth Theater and The Public Theater, respectively. His recent directing projects include, Baum and Cheri’s Gun and Powder at Signature Theater, Lorraine Hansberry’s Raisin in the Sun at Williamstown Theater Festival, Aziza Barnes’ BLKS at MCC, Inda Craig-Galvan’s Black Superhero Magic Mama at The Geffen Theater, the Universes’ Uni/Son, inspired by the poetry of August Wilson at OSF and Shakespeare’s Macbeth at Denver Center for the Performing Arts.


If all that is truly needed to tell a great story is an actor and an audience then what is design for the stage and what can it do?

This class explores the design of visual and material elements for the stage. How it can amplify, interpret and extend the message of the production to the viewer through delight, astonishment and provocation. Together we will explore how costume design can even assist in changing a cultural narrative. 

Transformative Design is rooted in the principles of theatrical design practice as a process to explore the breadth of these questions. The professor will  first demonstrate the design process that a costume designer undertakes, from start to finish. Students will learn how to read and research an existing dramatic text as a designer and how to manifest the vision of the designer’s other collaborative artists – director, choreographer, dramaturg and actors – in visual terms.

Design (whether a designer creates a costume, a prosthetic, a material prop or piece of scenery) can also transform the performer and shift the very terms of representational embodiment. For the actor, design can change one’s understanding of the physicality, the intellectual and emotional life of the character they are engaged to portray. Students will learn how to sketch and design costumes that assist in transforming the performer’s body, and how to collaborate with everyone involved in a theatrical production.

Registration Closed