Jean Rosenthal was a pioneer in theater lighting design, finding new aesthetics for dance performances, theater productions, and even airports. Rosenthal studied at the Neighborhood Playhouse School and became enamored of the famed faculty member Martha Graham. She helped out with various aspects of production and technical work for Graham’s performances, then enrolled at Yale from 1931–1934 to gain more technical training. In 1935 she became a production supervisor for a WPA theater project in New York, and two years later became a production assistant at Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater. She composed lighting for major Broadway plays including 1957’s West Side Story, 1960’s Becket, 1964’s Fiddler on the Roof, 1965’s The Odd Couple, and 1966’s Cabaret. She founded her own mail-order catalog company in 1940, Theater Production Service, which sold theatrical equipment. She also consulted on projects like the Pan-American Terminal at the JFK airport. She found inspiration in the subtleties of Rembrandt and Monet, and used dance performances as an opportunity to experiment, creating innovations like side lighting to give the dancers a sculptural quality. She continued working with Martha Graham throughout her career until her death, calling their collaborations a renewal of her interior spirit.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Jean Rosenthal." (Viewed on March 24, 2019) <https://jwa.org/people/rosenthal-jean>.