Fellow: Awarded 1986
Field of Study: Theatre Arts
Competition: US & Canada
Jennifer Tipton's career as a lighting designer was born of happenstance. After earning her B.A. in English literature at Cornell University in 1953 and moving to New York City to become a dancer, she joined the Merry-Go-Rounders, a theatrical group that performed on weekends for children. As its rehearsal director, she thought a course in lighting would be beneficial. Her studies with Tom Skelton proved life changing, convincing her that she wanted to be a lighting designer.
At first, she primarily lit dance, working with such noted choreographers as Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, Jerome Robbins, and Don Wagoner. But her lighting for Celebrations: The Art of the Pas de Deux at the 1974 Spoleto Festival drew the attention of directors and set designers, which resulted in her subsequent deep involvement in drama as well. She eventually added opera and installation art to her repertoire.
Over the years, Ms. Tipton has designed lighting for the American Ballet Theater and Joffrey Ballet; for The Cherry Orchard at Lincoln Center, Peer Gynt at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, and the American Repertory Theater; and for the Welsh National Opera's Hansel and Gretel, the Santa Fe Opera's staging of Beatrice and Benedict, and productions at the Metropolitan Opera; and other dramatic, choreographic, operatic, and art productions too numerous to list.
Accolades for her work have been many and varied: she has received two Tony awards, an Olivier Award, an OBIE, Bessies, Dance Magazine and Drama Desk awards, as well as the Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize in 2001. In September 2008, the MacArthur Foundation honored her with one of its "genius" grants in recognition of her decades of achievement, singling out among her many innovations her "pioneer[ing] use of white light in theatre and dance."
Jennifer Tipton has been an adjunct professor of design at the Yale School of Drama and lighting design advisor at the Yale Repertory Theater since 1984.