Jean Rosenthal

Dates: 1912 – 1969

  • Pioneered the position of ‘lighting designer’ as a legitimate career, when the electrician or set designer ‘did the lights’. She turned a technical craft into an art. 
  • Became technical assistant to Martha Graham, and then lifetime collaborator.
  • Joined the Federal Theatre Project in 1935, leading to collaborations with Orson Welles and John Houseman.
  • Book, “Magic of Light” published posthumously in 1972.

Some of her major contributions were the elimination of shadows by using washes of saturated lighting from upstage and side, controlling angles and mass of illumination to create shadowless contrasts. She designed over 200 Broadway shows for Martha Graham, New York City Ballet, and the Metropolitan Opera. She also brought to Broadway such famous musicals as West Side Story (1957), The Sound of Music (1959), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (1962), Fiddler on the Roof (1964), Hello Dolly! (1964), and Cabaret (1966). 

Some of her work has been documented at

Genius, Passion and the Magic of Light (2021)
[External Website]