Skelton, Thomas R.

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1928
Death 1994
French, Malay, Chinese, Spanish; Castilian, Tagalog, German, English

Biographical notes:

One of America's most distinguished lighting designers, Thomas Skelton (1928-1994), enjoyed a long career in which he created the lighting for many important Broadway productions, as well as landmark dance works.

Born Thomas Reginald Skelton, Jr. in Maine, he developed an interest in modern dance while a student in the Theater Department at Middlebury College, Vermont. Upon graduating, he moved to New York City where he continued to pursue his interest in theater and modern dance. Skelton briefly studied dance technique with Martha Graham and José Limón, and composition with Doris Humphrey. He earned a living through odd jobs, including one in management for City Center Opera. His first professional experience in lighting came as an apprentice for Jean Rosenthal at the American Dance Festival. Skelton soon was working as a stage manager and lighting designer for Columbia Artists Management which represented various dance companies. Robert Joffrey invited Skelton to work as stage manager and lighting designer for his newly-formed company. In addition to his work with the Joffrey Ballet, Skelton had successful professional associations with Martha Graham, José Limón, New York City Ballet, and Paul Taylor. Dance pieces for which he designed the lighting include: the original productions of Paul Taylor's Aureole (1962), Robert Joffrey's Astarte (1967), and Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering (1969), as well as revivals of Kurt Jooss' The Green Table, José Limón's The Moor's Pavane, and Leonide Massine's Parade. Among his most notable Broadway productions were the revivals of Brigadoon (1980), Death of a Salesman (1975 and 1984 productions), Guys and Dolls (1976), The King and I (1977), and Oklahoma! (1979). Skelton received Tony Award nominations for the original production of Indians (1967) and the revival of All God's Chillun Got Wings (1975). He also designed lighting for numerous productions at the Circle in the Square, Yale Repertory Theatre, and the American Shakespeare Festival. Skelton served on the Board of DANCE/USA and was Associate Director for the Akron-based Ohio Ballet. He also taught at the New York Studio and Forum of Stage Design and at Yale University.

From the description of Thomas Skelton papers, circa 1953-1994. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 129651374

Thomas Reginald Skelton Jr. was born in Maine in 1928. He developed an interest in modern dance while a student in the Theater Department at Middlebury College, Vermont. Upon graduating he moved to New York City where he continued to pursue his interest in theater and modern dance. He briefly studied dance technique with Martha Graham and José Limón, and composition with Doris Humphrey. He earned a living through odd jobs, including one in management for City Center Opera. His first professional experience in lighting came as an apprentice for Jean Rosenthal at the American Dance Festival.

Tom Skelton was soon working as a stage manager and lighting designer for Columbia Artists Management which represented various American and foreign companies working in America and abroad. Robert Joffrey, who was at that time creating his own company, invited Tom Skelton to work as stage manager and lighting designer.

After a long career, Thomas Skelton is recognized as one of America's most distinguished lighting designers. He designed the lighting for many important Broadway productions as well as landmark dance works. He had successful professional associations with Martha Graham, Robert Joffrey, Paul Taylor, New York City Ballet, and José Limón. Mr. Skelton taught at the New York Studio and Forum of Stage Design and at Yale University. He also designed lighting for numerous productions at the Circle in the Square, Yale Repertory Theatre, and the American Shakespeare Festival. Mr. Skelton received Tony Award nominations for Indians and All God's Chillun Got Wings . He served on the Board of DANCE/USA and was Associate Director for the Ohio Ballet, which has its home in Akron, Ohio.

Among his most notable productions are Guys and Dolls, The King and I, Gigi, Death of a Salesman (both the Dustin Hoffman and George C. Scott revivals); Oklahoma!, and Brigadoon . For the ballet stage important works include: Jerome Robbins' Dances at a Gathering, Robert Joffrey's Astarte, José Limón's The Moor's Pavane, Paul Taylor's Aureole, Martha Graham's Rite of Spring, Kurt Jooss' The Green Table, Gerald Arpino's Kettantanz, and Leonide Massine's Parade . He died in August, 1994, at age 66.

From the guide to the Thomas Skelton papers, circa 1953-1994, (The New York Public Library. Jerome Robbins Dance Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Modern dance--Production and direction
  • Stage lighting
  • Ballet--Production and direction
  • Stage lighting designers--United States--20th century
  • Stage lighting designers--20th century
  • Theater--Production and direction
  • Stage lighting--United States
  • Stage lighting--Europe
  • Theaters--Lighting

Occupations:

  • Stage lighting designers

Places:

  • Europe (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)