You may not know his name, but from the 1950s-80s, his sets and costumes graced dance and theatre performances across the country. Rouben Ter-Arutunian even won a Tony -- for the 1959 Gwen Verdon starrer, Redhead, though his best-known work was for George Balanchine and NYC Ballet's "Nutcracker."
The New York Public Library is currently displaying 77 drawings and sketches of Arutunian's work - material acquired by the Library three years before the designer's death in 1992.
"Rouben Ter-Arutunian: A Working Collection," is housed in the Amsterdam Gallery at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza. The free exibit runs Oct. 3-Dec. 13, though the "Nutcracker" material will be on view through Jan. 3, 1998.
Madeleine Nichols, Curator of the Library's Dance Collection, notes that Ter-Arutunian was also a major figure in early television design, such as his work on the 1956 broadcast of "Jack And The Beanstalk" and a 1960 Tempest (starring Roddy McDowall).
Theatre designs shown at the exhibit include work for American Shakespeare Festival mountings of The Merchant Of Venice, Much Ado About Nothing and a Katharine Hepburn-starred Twelfth Night. The whole collection features three-dimensional models, stage plans, handwritten notes, photographs, press clippings and other memorabilia. Born in Tiflis, Russia, Ter-Arutunian (of Armenian descent) served as an apprentice at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. He immigrated to the U.S. In 1951 and became a citizen five years later.
Among those who wore his costumes were Richard Burton, John Gielgud, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Lotte Lenya and Gwen Verdon (Redhead).
For information on theatre-related events at the NY Public Library call (212) 870-1630.
--By David Lefkowitz