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Paul Owen theatre design collection

Identifier: 2015_185-RB
Paul Owen kept sketches, whether for individual productions or for festivals and series, rolled and organized by production year. Paul Owen’s organization has been maintained with rolls of sketches organized chronologically in boxes. This finding aid identifies the name of each play present in the archive with its author and production year.

Sandra Strawn, Professor in Theatre at University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, worked with Paul Owen as Resident Properties Master and Assistant Designer at Actors Theatre of Louisville from 1978 to 1984. Professor Strawn has been instrumental in preserving the Paul Owen archive and arranging for its placement at the University of Louisville. This finding aid is derived from Professor Strawn’s comprehensive “Paul Owen – Design Chronology,” complied from Actors Theatre of Louisville programs, clippings and her interviews with people involved with production. Researchers may consult Sandra Strawn’s manuscript “Paul Owen – Design Chronology,” housed with the collection for a comprehensive list of plays designed by Paul Owen as well directors, production staff, and any design roles held by Paul Owen in addition to his role as scenic designer.

Within the collection small series of architectural drawings and scrapbooks await processing. Details of those series will be added to this finding aid at a later date.


  • 1968-2014
  • Majority of material found within 1972-2009


2.5 linear feet (560 sets of sketches; 16 set models)

Biographical / Historical

Paul Owen was born in 1935 and grew up in rural Texas, attending college at the University of Houston. After serving in the U.S. Army he joined The Alley Theatre in Houston in 1960 at the start of the regional theatre movement in America. Initially hired as an actor and director Paul Owen worked closely with Artistic Director Nina Vance as his role evolved to be liaison with designers and eventually as resident designer, creating costumes, lights and scenery for many Alley productions. He also was a consultant on the construction of the “New” Alley Theater. Paul Owen left The Alley Theatre in 1970 to pursue an interest in designing resort homes in North Carolina.

In 1971 Artistic Director Jon Jory convinced Paul Owen to move to Louisville as a costume designer for the fledgling Actors Theatre of Louisville (ATL). By the following year Paul Owen had become ATL’s resident scenic designer. According to Actors Theatre of Louisville ( Paul Owen designed approximately 1,500 productions at Actors Theatre and for its tours, as well as productions at other theatres, including opera and ballet. He also helped lead the design for Main Street complex in 1972 and its expansion in 1994. Actors Theatre also lists honors: The Kentucky Governor’s Award for Artistic Achievement in 1993, the Eddy Award from Entertainment Design Magazine for sustained excellence in theatrical stage craft in 2005 and the Hanover College Medal for Excellence in the Arts in 2010.

In semi-retirement since 2009, Paul Owen continues to design sets, most often for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Paul Owen's Archive of scrapbooks and sketches was moved from his home in Louisville in October 2015. A selection of seventeen set models, from a larger group of models preserved at Actors Theatre’s Paul Owen Design Studio came in September 2015. That move was facilitated by ATL Technical Director Justin Hagovsky.

Related Materials

Teka Ward's Notes on the History of Actors Theatre Louisville consists of miscellaneous reference material relating to Actors Theatre of Louisville and oral history interviews with directors, board members, actors, stagehands, critics, and patrons. The material was collected by a graduate student in history for a master’s thesis.
Paul Owen Theatre Design Collection
In Progress
Delinda Buie
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Finding aid is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections Repository

Ekstrom Library, Lower Level Room 17
Louisville KY 40292
502 852-6752
502 852-6673 (Fax)