The archive of award-winning lighting designer Kevin Adams is now housed at the Harry Ransom Center, a key destination for the study of theatre and performance history. Adams has received four Tony Awards for his lighting designs of Spring Awakening (2007), The 39 Steps (2008), American Idiot (2010), and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2014), as well as nominations for Hair (2009), Next to Normal (2009), SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical (2018), and The Cher Show (2019).
Kevin Adams has been at the forefront of lighting design for decades. Rather than resisting changes in new lighting technologies like LEDs or fluorescents, he saw their potential to radically change the way a stage could look. He continues to push the field in exciting directions.
—Eric Colleary, Cline Curator of Theatre and Performing Arts
His work has been seen in theaters around the world, from solo shows with Sandra Bernhard and John Fleck in Los Angeles to the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The archive documents hundreds of projects over the past 35 years of Adams’s career through light plots, magic sheets, scripts, production photographs, digital files, programs and personal memorabilia.
Adams’s archive joins other major theatre design collections at the Ransom Center, including the papers of Norman Bel Geddes, Gordon Conway, Edward Gordon Craig, and Eldon Elder.
“I hope that it shows a good example of what one part of American theatre looked like from the period within which I designed, representing both Broadway and off-Broadway work,” said Adams about his archive. “I think it shows the path and development of a unique body of work as well as developments in theatrical and home lighting technologies.”
The archive also reflects Adams’s work as a visual artist and filmmaker, including Can’t Take That Away From Me (1992), his short film about the 1991 gay-bashing murder of Paul Broussard.
Adams studied scenic design at The University of Texas at Austin and graduated with a BFA in 1984. He received an MFA in 1986 for theatre and film set design and production from the California Institute for the Arts. And, in 2016, he received UT’s E. William Doty Distinguished Alumnus Award from the College of Fine Arts.
Adams began to experiment with lighting early in his career in Los Angeles while working in film, television, and local theatre. In 1993, he was the recipient of the Theatre Communications Group/National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship to explore the use of non-traditional lighting techniques.
“Kevin Adams has been at the forefront of lighting design for decades,” said Eric Colleary, the Ransom Center’s curator of performing arts. “Rather than resisting changes in new lighting technologies like LEDs or fluorescents, he saw their potential to radically change the way a stage could look. He continues to push the field in exciting directions.”
The Ransom Center’s performing arts collections document a wide variety of performance genres, particularly from the United Kingdom and America. The Center holds one of the largest collections of American, British, and Irish playwright archives including the papers of David Hare, Lillian Hellman, Adrienne Kennedy, Terrence McNally, Arthur Miller, John Osborne, J. B. Priestley, Elmer Rice, Tom Stoppard, and Tennessee Williams, along with significant collections of writers like Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, Sam Shepard, and Oscar Wilde.
The Kevin Adams Papers are open for research. For more information, visit the Ransom Center’s website.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2014), photo by Benjamin Pearcy