Stage Design Exhibition at the Museum of Chinese in America


I only recently visited the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) for the first time. Located in Manhattan’s Chinatown, the museum was designed by artist and designer Maya Lin. Here is how the museum describes its mission on its website: “MOCA … is dedicated to preserving and presenting the history, heritage, culture and diverse experiences of people of Chinese descent in the United States.” I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and know I will be returning regularly to see new exhibitions. (In fact, I hope to return sometime soon as the museum offers some intriguing walking tours of Chinatown, described here.)

Currently, MOCA is host to an exhibition titled Stage Design by Ming Cho Lee, which continues until September 11, 2016. Ming Cho Lee, who was born in Shanghai, China, is a professor at Yale University’s School of Drama. He is one of the most preeminent living set designers in the United States. In 2013, Ming Cho Lee was presented the Tony Award for lifetime achievement. He was previously awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2002. The exhibition, which included some of Ming Cho Lee’s sketches, scale models of set designs, and photographic images of completed stage sets going back to the 1960s and 1970s, was fascinating. The exhibition’s design and focus allows visitors to gain a little insight into his design process, as well as noticing how his design aesthetic has evolved over the course of his career.

Here are a sampling of some of the scale models in the exhibition. Each one is beautiful – truly works of art in their own right. I’ve identified the performance and date in the caption for each photograph. (Each scale model is in a clear case, which can create challenges for photographs – I apologize for the reflections!)

Myth of a Voyage, Martha Graham Company, Alvin Theatre, New York, NY (1973)
Peer Gynt, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Lansburgh Theatre, Washington, DC (1998)
Richard III, New York Shakespeare Festival, Delacourte Theater, New York, NY (1966)
A Moon for the Misbegotten, Long Wharf Theatre, New Haven, CT (2005)
Set for Act 2 of The Firebird, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Seattle, WA (1989)

Interested in seeing more of this exhibition, as well as the rest of the museum? If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to do so. Because of MOCA’s location in Manhattan’s Chinatown, it’s easy to get to the museum. Just take the 6, N, Q, R, J, or Z train to the Canal Street station. The museum is located at 215 Centre Street, just a block north of Canal Street, between Howard and Grand Streets. There are also buses with stops close by, including the M9, M15, and M103 bus lines.

Note: MOCA is closed on Mondays. The museum offers free hours the first Thursday of each month (except holidays), but the adult tickets are a very reasonable $10 entry fee otherwise.

4 thoughts on “Stage Design Exhibition at the Museum of Chinese in America

  1. Riches upon riches! You’ve done a great job of knocking reflections into submission – I think eradicating them all is to miss an aspect of the exhibit, but that might be special pleading. You’ve captured something of the diversity of Ming Cho Lee’s work: I’d love a chance to prowl around this exhibition and this museum.

    1. Thanks, Meg! I always feel challenged when I write about museum exhibitions like this. I want to give enough photos to give everyone a real sense of what the exhibition is about, but I don’t want to post so many that I ruin it for those who want to go to the museum themselves. The fact that I was trying to avoid the worst of the reflections did help me sort through the photos this time! This museum is a real treat – I’ll do a post sometime soon about the other, long-term exhibition, which is also excellent.

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