Lighting designer and theatre consultant Nananne Porcher died on Sunday, June 17, of cancer, at the age of 78.
Born in 1922, in La Grange, GA, she studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also with legendary lighting designer Jean Rosenthal. In the early part of her career, she worked as stage manager and technical director for the Martha Graham and José Limon dance companies, as well as New York City Ballet. In addition she worked as touring lighting designer and technical director of City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Jerome Robbins company Ballets: U.S.A. According to her obituary in The New York Times, she is thought to have been the first American stage manager to work on programs at the Paris Opera, Rome Opera, and La Scala in Milan.
As designer, many credits include a ballet version of Jean Genet’s The Maids (New York Ballet Theatre Workshop, 1957), Sylvia (ABT, 1964) Agon (ABT, 1965), Peter and the Wolf (ABT, 1966), Giselle (ABT, 1966), The Combat (ABT, 1966), the world premiere of Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra, which opened the new Metropolitan Opera House in 1966, La Sylphide (ABT, 1966), the Broadway musical Ari (1971), Paquita (ABT, 1971), the world premiere of Beatrix Cenci (Opera Society of Washington, DC, 1971), the musical Prettybelle, which closed out of town in 1971, Diana and Acteon (ABT, 1973), the Scott Joplin opera Treemonisha (Broadway, 1974), the musical Robert and Elizabeth (Paper Mill Playhouse, 1982). Other productions included La Fille Mal Gardee (ABT) and Die Todt Stadt at New York City Opera. The latter was part of a close collaboration with opera director Frank Corsaro on productions that blended scenery, lighting, and projections.
She was perhaps best known as a theatre consultant, whose projects included the Carolina Theatre at the North Carolina School for the Arts and the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ. In 1975 She became president of Jean Rosenthal Associates in 1976; working with her longtime companion, Marion Kinsella, she consulted on both new theatres and renovations, and for unusual projects such as the lighting of Niagara Falls. She also received an honorary doctorate from the North Carolina School of the Arts in 1980.
She is survived by Ms. Kinsella.