Costume designer Marjorie Slaiman died on September 13, in Fairfax, VA, following complications from heart surgery. She was 77 and lived in Washington, DC.
Slaiman was closely associated with Arena Stage, in Washington, for 26 years, running the theatre’s costume shop and designing such landmark productions as The Great White Hope (1967) and a revival of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, which toured the Soviet Union in 1973. Her Broadway credits included a revival of Dance of Death (1971), starring Viveca Lindfors and Rip Torn; Michael Weller’s Moon Children (1972), with Robert Prosky, James Woods, Stephen Collins, Jill Eikenberry, and Christopher Guest; Zalmen, or the Madness of God (1976); Christopher Durang’s A History of the American Film (1978), and the musical Working.
She won a Helen Hayes Award (given to honor outstanding achievement in the Washington, DC-area theatre) in 1985 for a revival of Shaw’s Man and Superman. She earned Helen Hayes nominations in 1986 for John Guare’s Women and Water, and in 1987 for both Heartbreak House, by Shaw, and Light Up the Sky, by Moss Hart.
A native of the Bronx (she was born Marjorie Lawler), she attended Wayne State University in Detroit, MI, then worked as a lingerie designer. She moved to DC in 1959 and began designing costumes for Shakespeare productions on the Mall in the early 1960s. The bulk of her career was centered on the District; according to The Washington Post, she turned down the Broadway transfer of The Great White Hope when the producer offered her a fee of $1,500. (Slaiman herself had replaced another designer on the production, which meant she had to come up with 250 outfits in five weeks).
Slaiman appeared in the pages of Entertainment Design last year, in one of the magazine’s Theatre Crafts supplements [Click here to read the story ]. Writer Davi Napoleon revisited an article Slaiman wrote for Theatre Crafts in 1971, in which she discussed the issues of managing a regional theatre costume shop. The article compared Slaiman’s comments with those of Celestine Ranney-Howe, who runs the Arena shop today.
Slaiman’s husband, Donald, who she married in 1946, died in 2000. Her son, Curtis, died in 1980. She is survived by two sons, two daughters, five brothers, four sisters, and six grandchildren.