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Theater Designer Harris Dies

May 15, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ Margaret Harris, a theater designer whose work helped modernize staid, gilt-laden English theater in the 1930s, has died. She was 95.

Harris, the last survivor of the design team Motley, died Wednesday in London. No cause of death was given.

Harris began attending theater as a teen-ager with her sister, Sophie Harris, and friend Elizabeth Montgomery. They sketched the actors they saw on stage, sending the drawings to each theater. One sketch caught the eye of actor John Gielgud, who suggested the trio design the costumes for a production of ``Romeo and Juliet″ he planned to direct.

Adopting the name Motley, the three went on to design several productions for Gielgud, including 1932′s landmark ``Richard of Bordeaux″ _ which pioneered the use of simple sets and costumes made from everyday materials such as wool, linen and felt _ ``The Merchant of Venice″ and ``Hamlet.″

Harris also worked on Broadway and in Hollywood, designing an American production of ``Romeo and Juliet″ starring Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh and working on the sets for the film version of the musical ``Oklahoma!″

In England, she also designed for many theaters in Stratford-upon-Avon and London’s West End, as well as for the Sadler’s Wells Ballet and the English National Opera.

In 1968, she founded the Motley Theater Design School, which she ran until a few months before her death.

Queen Elizabeth II made Harris a member of the Order of the British Empire in 1975. In 1997, she received a special Olivier award, Britain’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tony.

Harris never married. She was not survived by any immediate family.

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