Remembering Doug Kraner '79G
Sunday, May 1, 2016
Sunday, May 1, 2016
June Gaeke, Professor Emerita
From the beginning it was clear Doug Kraner was a stand out! He came to UMass with a strong work ethic, unrelenting dedication to quality, a continuing quest for knowledge and skills, abundant creativity, a highly developed sense of responsibility as well as diplomatic skills all housed within a quiet presence infused with a generous spirit and great humanity. He also brought a dash of useful Midwest humor, and I remember having many a good laugh while we worked together in the costume shop.
Doug joined the graduate program in design not long after the department became the newly minted Department of Theater, having recently separated from the Department of Speech. (Now the Department of Communication). Even though Doug’s concentration was scenic design, he was initially assigned to me as a teaching assistant in the Costume Shop. I have vivid memories of Doug’s great energy and his unstinting dedication up to the very last second as we all dashed to complete the costumes for The Cradle Will Rock.
Doug came to us with a vast store of both talent and well developed skills in many areas. Among his varied assignments during the first year, he did the costume accessories for Tartuffe. He later designed costumes for Hot L Baltimore, one of the few MFA scene designers ever to take on a costume design assignment. I have often stumbled across the bright pink, cropped, leather jacket in costume stock that Doug designed for Suzy, and many fond memories of Doug would come flooding back.
I collaborated and worked with Doug on many shows. He designed the scenery for the premier of The Executioner’s Tragedy by Mike Milton (Bill Pullman '80G was the stage manager,) The Hollow Crown, and the first of our many productions of Romeo and Juliet. Other production assignments included scenic decorator for Anastasia, scenic painter for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Commonwealth Stage, LTD.) and crew chief for the set construction of Antigone.
To fulfill a department requirement for his MFA degree, Doug performed the role of the Detective in the production of The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window, directed by Professor Doris Abramson. This was not something that Doug did with any abundance of comfort or ease, but like all his endeavors, he dug down deep within his person to give his very best.
Doug was a generous colleague. He gave back in so many ways. I had an MFA costume student who left to freelance in NYC before finishing his three-year degree; his studies at UMass overlapped slightly with Doug’s. Tragically a few years later that student was an early victim of AIDS, and I was not surprised that Doug was part of his support system.
Doug came back to the department on numerous occasions over the last 37 years, and it is likely that he contributed in many more ways than the ones I have listed. He generously taught a multi-day symposium on film design, designed a lobby for the Rand renovation, celebrated the department’s landmark anniversaries, and graced my retirement party with his unique presence and time.
After all these years, I can still say that Doug was among my most talented students. I feel incredibly privileged to have been his teacher/ mentor as well as his friend and am deeply proud of the designer he became.
To view Doug’s professional portfolio go to:
Tim Joliat '87
We received the following remembrance from Tim Joliat '87, who worked with Doug on Gotham, the Batman prequel for which he received an Emmy nomination for production design.
It was such sad news. I had only recently met Doug, while working on the Pilot for the TV show Gotham, which was like no pilot we had worked on. Its scale was much more like that of a major feature film — rich and grand. The incredible look of the show was due directly to Doug's vision. He was a truly gifted artist, a visionary.
Again — I can't stress this enough — the show was huge, with a short time frame to get it ready to shoot. As the Set Dressing Foreman, I was charged with overseeing the sets being built on the soundstage at Steiner Studios in The Brooklyn Navy Yard. My main responsibility was the Gotham City PD precinct. With sets of this scale, due in such a short time frame, it's usually daunting, and easy to feel a bit overwhelmed by all the stress.
But not so while working with Doug — he was a rock — unshakable. And his unique dry wit lightened the mood on many occasions. Despite the rigors of such a huge project, he remained a consummate professional and teacher. The moment we figured out that we had both gotten our degrees from UMass (though about eight or ten years apart), our professional interactions grew into more of a friendship. I felt so fortunate to have met him and worked with him, even for such a short time. I was so proud to have shared the stage with him, and even prouder that we were both UMass theater alumni.
Rest in peace Doug, you are greatly missed.
Tim Joliat '87
Doug Kraner and Tim Joliat pose on the set of Gotham, the project they worked on as Production Designer and Set Dressing Foreman, respectively. (Photo courtesy of Tim Joliat)