MHC professor’s acclaimed set and costumes

Vanessa James’ design for the off-Broadway production of a new play, “Van Gogh’s Ear,” about the artist, incorporates extravagant detail and materials.

By Xiomara Núñez '20

An acclaimed production of a new play on off-Broadway, “Van Gogh’s Ear,” was recently lauded for its innovative design.  

Vanessa James, professor of theatre arts at Mount Holyoke College, designed the set and costumes for the show. Her work received a rave review by The New York Times, which called the production  “exquisite.”

James utilized unusual materials in innovative ways to bring sets and costumes to life, adding elaborate visual displays to the sensual show, the Times noted.

“Vanessa James’s set would at first appear to be a model of austere chic, in pristine black and white,” the review read. “Pay attention, though, to the tall blank panels at the back of the stage, the geometric white pathways on the floor and the empty canvases on both sides. As you watch these spaces, they begin to bloom with color — projections of van Gogh paintings, often in extravagantly magnified detail.”

James specializes in set and costume design for theater and opera, art direction for film and 20th-century design. Her achievements include two Emmy-award nominations and an Emmy citation.

Read the article.