Scenic Design Students Work with Chicago Artist

April 26, 2023

The Department of Theatre’s Spring 2023 production of The Royale featured a backdrop showing a larger-than-life portrait of the play’s central historical figure, Jack Johnson, the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. The backdrop painting is a scaled-up version of an original oil painting by Chicago artist Nikko Washington, who was commissioned to create this work specifically for this production. We spoke with scenic designer, Alyssa Thompson, and scenic charge, Will Sexton, to learn more about this remarkable collaboration, the significance of the piece, and the artistry and technical skill needed to pull off this bit of theatrical magic.

The full 15 x 20 foot backdrop painting of Jack Johnson is currently available for viewing as part of an exhibit at the Siebel Center for Design. There will be a reception and celebration of the work and collaboration on Friday, April 28, from 4:00pm - 6:00 pm.

stage with actors around a boxing ring and a large painted backdrop featuring jack johnson with newspaper text across
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