Recently Kendal at Oberlin resident, Bob Cothran, was honored with the Clarence Brown Theatre Society Artistic Achievement Award. He was resident scene designer for the Clarence Brown Company, a League of Resident Theaters Company at the University of Tennessee (UT) for over 25 years. Now professor emeritus, Bob was a faculty member of the university’s Theatre Department during those years, where he also taught set design, drawing and scenic painting.
Bob Cothran’s background includes classes at Vanderbilt University, the University of Tennessee and finally Yale Drama School, where he studied stage design under Donald Oenslager. His career began as a stage designer in regional professional theater and educational theater, including a smattering of television. Bob owned and operated an industrial exhibit firm in Pittsburgh for 12 years, and also taught at the University of Pittsburgh. He taught at the University of Victoria British Columbia before spending the balance of his career at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.
Bob’s been lauded for his scenic design sets for the UT Theatre Department and Clarence Brown Theatre productions. Memorable are The Merchant of Venice, The Tax Collector, and the revolving set for A Christmas Carol. Cothran also designed and painted scenes for the Rossini Festival opera productions.
His lithographs reside in the permanent collections of the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Ammon Carter Museum University of Tennessee and public and private collections.
Volunteer activities have also been a significant part of Bob’s life, and continue to be. He was scene designer for the Knoxville Nativity Pageant for 20+ years; provided graphic and display design for the Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh; and has done graphic work for a number of churches.
Bob Cothran claims he never worked a day in his life. What might be called ‘work’ gives him such joy and purpose, that he can’t imagine calling it by that name. His career provided an opportunity to, as he would say, “…choose what I would do if I had been wealthy, without need for an income… and fortunately I was blessedly paid for it!”
Since Bob never really worked, he hasn’t retired. Well into his 80’s, he describes Kendal as the “lively stimulating community,” which is so supportive of his ventures. Stay tuned for the next chapter coming soon…“What Bob Cothran’s Been Up to in Non-retirement.”