Acclaimed production designer to speak at MHC

Patrizia von Brandenstein is this year’s Leading Women in the Arts speaker.

By Alheri Egor-Egbe ’17

Patrizia von Brandenstein is one of Hollywood’s most accomplished production designers. In 1985, she became the first woman to win an Academy Award in art direction for the movie Amadeus. She has worked as both a costume designer and a scenic artist in a remarkable film and TV career spanning more than 40 years.

Von Brandenstein will discuss her work, and share some of her production designs, in a free public lecture on Thursday, October 15, during the Weissman Center for Leadership’s Leading Women in the Arts event. It starts at 7:00 pm in Gamble Auditorium of the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. She will also lead a leadership and careers luncheon with students on Friday, October 16.

Born in 1943 to German-Russian emigrant parents in Arizona, von Brandenstein began her career as a production designer in 1972 with an astounding debut as a set decorator on the political satire film The Candidate. She has since worked on more than 40 films, and is widely respected for her versatility and ability to design sets for diverse movies, from the dance sensation Beat Street, to the big budget drama film, Silkwood. She was nominated for an Academy Award for Ragtime in 1982, and received a third Oscar nomination for Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables in 1988.

Before becoming a production designer, she worked at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco for eight years, creating costumes and sets under William Ball. She also worked as a production assistant to acclaimed production designer Stuart Wurtzel.

Becky Packard, director at the Weissman Center, described von Brandenstein as a woman “who fully represents both courage and the essence of a leading woman in the arts.” She hopes von Brandenstein will inspire Mount Holyoke women to pursue their passions in creative work.

“We know that our students pride themselves on their creativity as well as their excellence. If you come to the lecture, Patrizia von Brandenstein will inspire you by showing you the movies where her designs appeared, and you can be inspired to continue to pursue your own creative work,” said Packard.

Von Brandenstein also worked on 2009 English-language German biographical drama The Last Station, directed by Michael Hoffman, for whom she had designed the set of the coming-of-age drama, The Emperor’s Club in 2002. She did production design for the Irish drama Albert Nobbs, which starred Glenn Close and Janet McTeer. She also worked on David Mamet’s production of the biographical television film Phil Spector, which earned nominations for an Art Director’s Guild award and an Emmy award.

The event is sponsored by the Weissman Center and the InterArts Council in a collaboration of multiple departments who collectively endorse a speaker. It is hosted this year by the Department of Theatre Arts.

Gamble Auditorium is wheelchair accessible, and listening devices are provided upon request. Students must register to attend the luncheon.

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