Mordecai Gorelik

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Mordecai Gorelik with his stage model for Let Freedom Ring
Design illustration by Gorelik for Processional
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Production photograph of the locomotive in Casey Jones

The online Mordecai Gorelik Theater Collection features hundreds of scene and costume designs and illustrations by stage and screen designer Mordecai 'Max' Gorelik from a larger collection of papers and images donated by Gorelik to the Special Collections Research Center. Gorelik served SIUC as a professor, teaching and staging plays from 1960 to 1972, following a distinguished career as a Broadway designer, beginning with John Howard Lawson's 1925 Processional and ending in 1960 with A Distant BellHe was critically acclaimed for his depiction of a steam locomotive for the 1938 Broadway production of Casey Jones. His film designs include Days of Glory and None But the Lonely Heart in 1944.

Gorelik is particularly known for his 1930s work with the Group Theatre and his 1940 history of theater, New Theatres for Old. Famous designers he worked with include Robert Edmund Jones, Norman Bel Geddes, Cleon Throckmorton, and Lee Simonson. In addition to the Group Theater, Gorelik designed for the prestigious Provincetown Players and Theatre Guild companies, and such avant garde companies as the New Playwrights, the Theatre Collective, the Theatre of Action, and the Theatre Union.

Influenced by the theories and designs of Bertolt Brecht, Gorelik pioneered metaphor in design and was interested in the interaction between the audience and the stage and the power of color and light in storytelling. He viewed theater as both an inevitable art form and a tool for social change. After retiring from SIUC in 1972, Gorelik focused on playwriting while continuing to teach, design, and direct.

In addition to the online Mordecai Gorelik Theater Collection, the Special Collections Research Center is home to the Mordecai Gorelik papers, 1899-1990, along with assorted materials related to Gorelik in vertical files and other collections.


Mordecai Gorelik

Fletcher, Anne. 2009. Rediscovering Mordecai Gorelik: Scene Design and the American Theatre. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Gewirtz, Arthur, and James J. Kolb. 2003. Experimenters, rebels, and disparate voices: the theatre of the 1920s celebrates American diversity. Westport, Conn: Praeger.

Gorelik, Mordecai. 1950. Paul Thompson forever: play in one act. Boston, Mass: Baker's Plays.

Gorelik, Mordecai, Archibald McLeod, Dwain Herndon, James Lash, Victor Cook, James Backes, Paul Brady, et al. 1961. The annotated Hamlet. Carbondale, Ill: Southern Illinois University Players.

Gorelik, Mordecai. 1962 (1940). New Theatres for Old. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

Gorelik, Mordecai. 1988. Toward a larger theatre: 7 plays. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Rosenthal, Raymond, and Mordecai Gorelik. 1960. [Mordecai Gorelik]. [New York]: [American Jewish Committee, Oral History Library].

John Howard Lawson

Chamber, Jonathan L. 2006. Messiah of the New Technique: John Howard Lawson, Communism, and American Theatre, 1923-1937. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press.

Workers' and Political Theater

Hyman, Colette A. Staging Strikes: Workers’ Theatre and the American Labor Movement. 1997. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Saal, Ilka. 2007. New Deal Theatre: The Vernacular Tradition in American Political Theatre. New York: Palgrave McMillan.