Ruth Lynda Deyo interdisciplinary collaboration, 1998
Ann Sears, Ann Murray, Zephorene Stickney, Kelly Dann
During the summer and fall of 1998 an interdisciplinary collaboration involving Professors Ann Sears (Music Department), Ann Murray (Art Department), Zephorine Stickney (Archivist and Special Collections Curator), and art history major Kelly Dann, Class of 2000, resulted in a major exhibition and catalogue for Beard & Weil Galleries: An American Composer Looks at Egypt: Ruth Lynda Deyo and The Diadem of Stars (Beard & Weil Galleries, February 3 - February 28, 1999). "The Diadem of Stars" is the title of a grandiose opera, or music drama, set during the idealistic reign of Pharoah Akhnaton in the 18th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. It was composed between 1925 and 1932, while Deyo was living in Egypt. Thanks to the generosity of her niece, Mrs. Lila Deyo Garnett, Wheaton's Gebbie Archives is the current repository of Ruth Lynda Deyo's notebooks, journals, and correspondence as well as materials pertaining to all aspects of her opera: set and costume designs, notes on plot development and production, the libretto penned by Charles Dalton whom she met in Egypt and married in 1927, and Deyo's hand-notated musical score. Also in the archives are two series of remarkable abstract drawings that Deyo executed in the medium of pastel. Diaries reveal that she considered her pastels and mucical compositions for the opera as analogous forms of expression, revelatory of a higher spiritual dimension.
These rich archival resources provided the foundation for an exciting research collaboration in which Kelly investigated the historical authenticity of the costume designs and ultimately created two costumes based on drawings for the exhibition. She was able to continue her summer research in an independent study course with Professor Murray in the Fall semester, during which she drafted her essay, "From Design to Realization: The Creation of a Costume." for the exhibition catalogue. Professor Sears' catalogue essay set the stage by providing biographical background and discussing the opera and its plot. Professor Murray, in turn, focused on the pastel drawings and their relation to esoteric writings by 19th century occultists and to theosophical thought-forms, while Archivist, Zeph Stickney used the archival materials to investigate the enigmatic Charles Dalton and his contribution to "The Diadem of Stars." Ann Sears, Zeph Stickney and Ann Murray are continuing their research on Deyo with the objective of writing biography of this fascinating composer and artist. We invite other students to join our interdisciplinary research team!