Darwin Reid Payne

Darwin Reid Payne in his studio
Darwin Reid Payne in his studio
Darwin Reid Payne discussing a model with Archibald McLeod
Darwin Reid Payne discussing a model with Archibald McLeod
Schematic illustration of Scrooge's grave unit for <em>A Christmas Carol</em>
Schematic illustration of Scrooge's grave unit for A Christmas Carol
Scenic model for <em>A Christmas Carol</em> by Darwin Reid Payne
Scenic model for A Christmas Carol by Darwin Reid Payne
Production photograph of Fezziwig's party in <em>A Christmas Carol</em>
The Ghost of Christmas Past reminds Ebenezer Scrooge of his youth at Fezziwig's party in A Christmas Carol

Born in 1931, Darwin Reid Payne earned his Bachelor of Science in Fine Arts from Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 1953. Encouraged by Theater Department chairman Archibald McLeod, he earned his Master of Arts degree 1954. Following Army service, Payne was hired by SIUC and mentored by Broadway designer Mordecai Gorelik, the Theater Department’s Distinguished Research Professor.

Encouraging scenographers to develop themselves as artists, Payne recommended cultivation of diverse interests and a well-rounded literary and artistic education in addition to learning the craft of stage design. He designed scenes, costumes, and props for a number of productions at SIUC and other institutions. While on leave from SIUC, he also served as artistic director at the University of British Columbia and as assistant to the art director of CBS-TV in New York. Hundreds of his renderings and photographs of his models, preserved in the University Museum Archives and on display in the Special Collections Research Center reading room at Morris Library, can be viewed online in the Darwin Reid Payne Theater Collection.

The Special Collections Research Center also preserves Payne's faculty papers from 1939 to 2001, including his set design sketches and drawings, costume renderings, research files, writings, manuscripts for his books Scenographic Imagination and Computer Scenographics, scripts, playbills, and correspondence. The papers document Payne's work on numerous theatrical sets, as well as his computer renderings and sketches.

Reflecting the influence of Gorelik, Payne's designs demonstrate his promotion of audience engagement. His thematic elements communicate meaning rather than simply support the vision of the playwright, director, and actors. Payne utilized a number of modeling techniques, including collage making, drawing, and creating three-dimensional scale models, later becoming a pioneer in computer modeling. He prioritized interaction between actors and the set as a character, visualizing how the set would appear to all parts of the audience.

Demonstrating the varied interests of a professor who practiced what he preached, Payne adapted Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol for the stage and served as the designer for the production at SIUC in 1979. The popular humanitarian tale traces the redemption of an uncompassionate businessman who is shown the error of his ways on Christmas Eve by the spirit of his old partner Marley and the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Published by Southern Illinois University Press in 1981, Payne's adaptation is designed to preserve the original story while facilitating production. His notes remind directors and actors to keep the action tense and moving in order to preserve Dickens' intended surreal horror as Scrooge finds himself trapped in a swirling confluence of dream and reality.

LEARN MORE

Moe, Christian Hollis, and Darwin Reid Payne. 1971. 6 new plays for children. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Payne, Darwin Reid. 1981. The Scenographic Imagination. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.

Payne, Darwin Reid. 1981. A Christmas Carol: Dramatized by Darwin Reid Payne from a short story by Charles Dickens. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Payne, Darwin Reid. 1985. Theory and Craft of the Scenographic Model. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.

Payne, Darwin Reid. 1994. Computer Scenographics. Carbondale, Illinois: Southern Illinois University Press.