University of Texas at Austin

Scientific American Publishing Co.
“How the Century Theatre was Converted into a Cathedral for the Production of ‘The Miracle’”

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Norman Bel Geddes Database

Job 85, Miracle, The, 1923-1927

Summary: Bel Geddes's work on a 1924 New York production of The Miracle solidified his reputation as a multi-talented theatrical genius. The play, directed by German impresario and Expressionist Max Reinhardt, was a staged version of a medieval legend about a nun. As the designer of the show’s scenery, costumes, and lighting, Geddes pulled off an artistic and technical tour-de-force. He remade the interior of the Century Theater into a Gothic cathedral, complete with dramatic lighting filtering through stained glass windows, pews instead of theater seats for the audience, and incense wafting through the air. Geddes's technical innovations ranged from mechanization of movable scenery and devices for quick costume changes to the creation of a single switchboard, manned by one electrician, who controlled the direction, color, and focus of the play’s lighting. The Miracle fused theater and architecture, creating an immersive environment that transformed passive audience members into active participants in a drama that surrounded them. As such, this new concept of the theater realized the transformative effects Geddes sought in all his art.

The spectacular pantomime in eight scenes was written by Karl Vollmöller from the medieval legend of Sister Beatrice. It was produced by F. Ray Comstock and Morris Gest at the Century Theatre in New York where it ran from 15 January 1924 to 10 November 1925. It was also produced at the Public Auditorium in Cleveland from 22 December 1924 to 10 January 1925; in Cincinnati Spring in 1925; at the Boston Opera House from 28 October to 15 December 1925; at the New Coliseum in St. Louis from 24 December 1925 to 20 January 1926; and in Philadelphia, Kansas City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco in 1926.

Hunter Code: DS 3
Hunter Guide: page 100

(click image for description)

Box/Location Folder Description
flat file b 1 Scene Renderings --- Right panel on stained glass drop, watercolor.
flat file b 2 Scene Renderings --- Left panel on stained glass drop, watercolor.
flat file b 3 Scene Renderings --- Center panel on stained glass drop, watercolor.
flat file b 4 Scene Renderings --- One of 36 stained glass windows to be 86 feet high at sides of chancel, watercolor.
flat file b 5 Scene Renderings --- Rose windows above right of left entrance, watercolor.
flat file b 6 Scene Renderings --- "The Cathedral," charcoal.
flat file b 7 Scene Renderings --- "The Forest Scene," charcoal.
flat file b 8 Scene Renderings --- "The Worship of the Madonna," charcoal.
flat file b 9 Scene Renderings --- "The Inquisition," charcoal.
flat file b 10 Scene Renderings --- "The Inquisition Mob," charcoal and pastel.
flat file b 11 Scene Renderings --- "The Consecration of the Nun," charcoal.
flat file b 12 Scene Renderings --- "The Coronation of Magildis," charcoal.
theater box 91 c 1-2 Costume Renderings --- Prints of publicity photos.
flat file c 3a Costume Renderings --- Lady Guest, watercolor.
flat file c 3b Costume Renderings --- Another Lady Guest, watercolor.
flat file c 3c Costume Renderings --- Gentleman Companion, watercolor.
flat file c 3d Costume Renderings --- Priest, watercolor.
flat file c 3e Costume Renderings --- Executioner, watercolor.
flat file c 3f Costume Renderings --- Gentleman Banqueter, watercolor.
flat file c 4a Costume Renderings --- Gentleman Companion, watercolor.
flat file c 4b Costume Renderings --- Chief Gypsy or Jester, watercolor.
flat file c 4c Costume Renderings --- Oriental Gentleman, watercolor.
flat file c 4d Costume Renderings --- Page to the Queen (and also Canopy Bearer?), watercolor.
flat file c 4e Costume Renderings --- Noble Gentleman, watercolor.
flat file c 4f Costume Renderings --- Bridesmaid, watercolor.
flat file c 5 Costume Renderings --- Choir Boy, watercolor.
flat file c 6 Costume Renderings --- Cymbal Bearer, watercolor.
flat file c 7 Costume Renderings --- Falcon Keeper, watercolor.
flat file c 8 Costume Renderings --- Groom's Man, watercolor.
flat file c 9 Costume Renderings --- Gypsy Woman, watercolor.
flat file c 10 Costume Renderings --- Lady Companion, watercolor.
flat file c 11 Costume Renderings --- Monk, watercolor.
flat file c 12 Costume Renderings --- Soldier, watercolor.
theater box 91 c 13-32 Costume Renderings--- 126 Preliminary sketches, 1 photo.
theater box 91 c 33 Costume Renderings --- 2 Watercolors, 3 crayon sketches, 2 photos.
flat file d 1-38 Drawings --- 38 Set details.
theater box 91 e 1-2 Preliminary Sketches --- 7 scenes, elevations.
flat file f 1-7 Plans and Elevations --- 7 drawings.
oversize flat files, drawer 2 f 8 Plans and Elevations --- Drawing 517, transverse section through auditorium (mounted, 27 1/4 x 60 1/4 inches).
flat file f 9-57 Plans and Elevations --- 49 drawings.
damaged box 10 g 1 Production Record Book --- Vol. 1 Script 1st synopsis by NBG, Reinhardt, Vollmöller, Schirmer w/NBG's ms. revisions. 2nd Synopsis w/ cue notes, costume and property schedules. 1st Scene narrative.
theater box 92 g 2 Production Record Book --- Correspondence, memos, program 1923-1924.
theater box 92 g 2a Production Record Book --- Correspondence Reinhardt - Rudolph Kommer 14Sep1923 [Ex Hunter CL-21].
theater box 92 g 3 Production Record Book --- Preliminary Sketches of stage settings and scene action charts.
theater box 92 g 4 Production Record Book --- Vol. 4 Specifications for scenery (P.J. Carey Company), lighting, costumes, properties and sound.
theater box 92 g 5 Production Record Book --- Cost and income estimate notes.
theater box 92 g 6-7 Production Record Book --- Vol. 5 Publicity Photographs and Clippings 1924.
theater box 92 g 8 Production Record Book --- Publicity Correspondence NBG - Encyclopaedia Britannica 1954.
theater box 92 g 9 Production Record Book --- Music scores 'Selection' and 'Waltz'.
theater box 92 g 10-11 Production Record Book --- Programs.
theater box 92 g 12 Production Record Book --- Record book title pages.
theater box 93 h 1-2 Photographs --- 7 Photos of scene renderings.
theater box 93 h 3-6 Photographs --- 70 Record Copy photos.
oversize box 21 h 7a-b Photographs --- 23 Duplicate photos.
theater box 93 h 8 Photographs --- 9 Photos of Cleveland production.
oversize box 21 h 9-15 Photographs --- 7 Bruguière photos interfiled in h.3-6?
negative box 38 h 16 Photographs --- 19 Negatives by Bruguière.
negative box 38 h 17 Photographs --- 6 Negatives. [4 damaged]
theater box 93 h 18 Photographs --- Captions.
oversize box 21 h 19 Photographs --- 'Stage left view' 11x15 interfiled in h.3-6?
flat file h 20 Photographs --- Glossy print of Madonna, Piper, and Nun.
flat file h 21 Photographs --- Production photograph of Madonna.
flat file h 22 Photographs --- Production photograph of Nuns.
flat file h 23 Photographs --- Production photograph of Priest in Pulpit.
flat file h 24 Photographs --- Plate of 7 production photographs for display.
flat file h 25 Photographs --- Photograph of the Inquisition Scene.
flat file h 26 Photographs --- Photograph of the Adoration of Mary.
theater box 94 i 1 Publicity --- Souvenir Program c1924.
oversize box 21 i 1a-c Publicity --- Souvenir Programs c1926.
theater box 94 i 2-8 Publicity --- Review clippings, 1924-1927.
oversize box 21 i 9 Publicity --- Review clippings, 1924-1927 (continued).
theater box 94 i 10 Publicity --- Review clippings, 1924-1927 (continued).
flat box 1a i 11 Publicity --- Scrapbook compiled by William J. O'Neill for Century Theatre production, 1924.
theater box 94 j 1 Correspondence --- Costumes, lighting.
theater box 94 j 2 Correspondence --- NBG - Barnsdall, Gest, Alfred Steiglitz, Tilly Losch, et al. 1923-1938.
theater box 94 j 3 Correspondence --- Reinhardt communications.
flat file j 4 Correspondence --- Reinhardt - NBG letter.
theater box 95 k 1 cript --- Cues 1-141 Action / Lighting / Sound.
theater box 95 m 1 Programs --- Century Theatre 1926.
theater box 95 m 2 Programs --- Cleveland, St. Louis, San Francisco 1924-1926.
theater box 95 n 1 Photostats --- Scene renderings.
oversize box 21 n 2 Photostats --- Prints for presentation book.
theater box 95 n 3-4 Photostats --- Plans and scenes.
flat file n 5-7 Photostats --- Scenes and plans.
theater box 95 o 1 Cost estimates.
theater box 95 q 1-2 Source Material --- Costume clippings.
theater box 95 q 3 Source Material ---- Costume tracings.
theater box 95 r 1-2 Properties --- 22 Preliminary Sketches.
flat file r 3-10 Properties --- 8 Drawings.
theater box 95 y 1 Autobiography draft excerpts.