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Maher Ahmad (1950-  ) Papers

 Collection
Identifier: 31/6/104
Maher Ahmad (B.A. 71, M.F.A. 74) is a highly successful production designer who has worked in theater, television, and film from Chicago to New York City to Hollywood. The Maher Ahmad Papers consist of material relating to his early life and general education, but primarily focuses on his work as a designer for the theater. The bulk of the collection is production design materials including set, lighting, and costume designs. Ahmad's teaching notes for the numerous theatre-related classes he taught are also a central element in the collection. Scrapbooks, slides of stage designs, theatre posters, theatre playbills, and more round out the material.

The first folder in Box 1 contains a copy of this inventory, as well as the following documents donated by Ahmad: biographical outline, resume, film chronology, list of accessioned materials, color copies of example photographs for each type of material, and a DVD containing digital copies of all of the above.

The Maher Ahmad Papers consist of the follow 18 series:

Educational Materials:

This series contains all relevant high school documents including programs from the plays Ahmad saw and worked on in high school. Ahmad's undergraduate materials were all lost in a flood. Missing items include the projects Ahmad designed as an undergraduate, all of his class notes and exams and papers as an undergraduate, and all correspondence from the period. Also missing are all of the gay liberation materials from the period, such as documents, leaflets, letters, posters, and photos. However, a journal and a scrap book he kept from those years survive. The graduate school documents include class notes and date books from June of 1972 through 1980. The M.F.A. thesis documents section includes sketches, architectural drawings, costume designs, notes, and analyses for Ahmad's MFA thesis, Goethe’s play “Faust”.

Diaries:

These include one diary from high school; one diary from Ahmad's undergraduate years (with a lot of notes about gay liberation); three personal handwritten diaries that he kept during his professional theatre years (with many entries relating to this work); and about 25 pages of printed out notes made on computer from Ahmad's years in New York City.

These documents are restricted to be viewed only after Ahmad’s death, or at a point at which he gives Northwestern University written permission to allow open access to them. A written request can be made to Ahmad and he may grant access on a case by case basis.

Datebooks:

This series consists of daily planners with appointments, schedules, notes, and financial ledger records.

Design Folders: College; Teaching; Professional Work:

These materials document the process of developing the final theatrical designs for Ahmad’s contributions to the set, lighting, and/or costume designs for the various projects he worked on, and are contained in a number of file folders. There is a chronological, numerated list of the productions that serves as a key to the folders, with the opening date of the production and the name of the producing entity. Each folder contains the documents from a single production, and is noted with the name of the production and the corresponding production number. The folders contain or may contain rough sketches, many on newsprint; miscellaneous documents including materials lists and so on; scaled architectural drawings or perspective line drawings of the set; and contractual documents.

Playbills:

There are five categories of theatrical playbills included in this section:

-High School productions designed by Ahmad, or on which he served as a crew member.

-Northwestern University productions designed by Ahmad, or on which he crewed or acted.

-Rockford College productions designed by Ahmad.

-Chicago productions professionally designed by Ahmad.

-Productions Ahmad attended, but did not work on, including plays at Northwestern, in Chicago, and some shows in New York City and London.

Awards, Reviews, and Administrative Files:

This series contains theatrical design awards given to Ahmad, and some general administrative files relating to employment and leases. The bulk of this series are clippings of reviews of Ahmad's work and of productions on which he worked.

Teaching Materials:

This section includes handwritten and typed notes for the classes that Ahmad taught at Rockford

College and Loyola University including set and lighting design, theatre history, period styles, make up, interpretation, scene painting, and other classes. There are also copies of exams, student evaluations, and correspondence with the college administration.

Theatrical Scripts:

Present are scripts for nearly all of the plays Ahmad designed. Some may be the only existing copies; some are professionally published; some are mimeographed or photocopied; some are original production scripts. Many have Ahmad's handwritten notes.

Palestine Education and Activism Materials:

Hand-written and typed notes of Ahmad's Palestinian activist work, including printed or photocopied leaflets and handouts written and designed by him for use at demonstrations; teaching notes for the courses he taught about the history of Palestine; published interviews with Ahmad about the subject; and published newspaper articles about the subject.

Oversized Materials/Set Renderings

Contains material from several other series that is too large to fit in standard archival boxes.

Architectural Construction Drawings:

Contains approximately 300 sheets of scaled architectural drawings hand-drawn by Ahmad, detailing how the sets were to be built. These drawings include some drafts as well as the finals to be built from, and some are the line drawings for the color renderings. The drawings are mostly on Clearprint paper, or architectural sketch paper, drawn with lead pencil, and most are 24 x 36 inches. There are a very few instances of blue line prints where the original documents are lost. The drawings are organized by production, with a yellow production number sheet separating each group of drawings.

Set and Costume Renderings:

The category includes approximately 75 renderings of sets, mostly done in water color on illustration board matted with black poster board, but sometimes rendered in pencil or gouache, with a few drawings done on Clearprint. Most drawings are for mounted productions, although some are projects done for graduate classes, such as all of the renderings for Ahmad's MFA project. There are also about 90 costume design renderings, mostly done in ink and watercolor, and a folder of 62 pages of costume sketches. The small set and costume renderings in boxes 26 and 27 are not in folders, but are arranged in order with penciled numbers.

Miscellaneous Materials:

This series contains a large, mounted drawing by Ahmad, a painted rendering of an advertising sign, the Northwestern University scrapbook of Ahmad's time there (mostly covering productions in which he appeared as an actor), and the portfolio pages of illustrations of Ahmad's work that he used to take to job interviews and printed photos of his set designs mounted on approximately 20 sheets of black paper in acetate sleeves.

Posters:

A small number of posters make up this series. They include hand drawn posters done for high school productions (by Ahmad's friend Harold Aqua, who would later become a graphic artist). Also represented are a number of the printed posters from the productions Ahmad worked on or was in at the Little Theatre of Wilkes-Barre, and a number of posters from other professional productions. Included is original artwork for the poster for "The Caretaker".

Slides:

Approximately 1400 slides (35 mm, Ektachrome) of the mounted productions that Ahmad designed make up this section of the papers. For many of the productions he is quite certain that these are the only images that exist. Each slide carries the production number; many have the name of the production written on it. A few of the images are photos of the crew and director posed on the sets. Ahmad took all of these photos and they are free of any copyright issues. There is also a CD with middling quality digital scans of these images. High resolution digital scans are being made and will be available as part of this collection.

Audiotapes:

4 cassette audiotapes made by Ahmad of the performances of "The Club"; "Ashes of Roses"; and "Oh Coward". Digital copies of this material are available.

Correspondence (forthcoming):

This series includes personal correspondence, with a significant portion relating to work and school activities. Included are the applications and related correspondence regarding Ahmad's applications to UC Berkeley to enter the doctoral program in theater.

Additions:

An addition was received on 2.25.2013 (Accession #13-45) from Maher Ahmad. It consists of one oversized folder with architectural construction drawings to be filed in the existing production number order (Series 11); one scrapbook from Ahmad's high school years (added to Series 13); a description of materials received; and instructions on how to file the items. The scrapbook has mud damage, but is stable, mold-free, and the conservation lab said that since the book is not in danger of deterioration and is legible, a thorough cleaning is not recommended at this time.

Forthcoming Material:

Two set renderings Ahmad is holding onto; the correspondence; additional audiotapes; the original artwork for "The Caretaker" poster.

Dates

  • 1962-1992
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/10/2010

Creator

Conditions Governing Access

The diaries are restricted until after Ahmad's death, but may be accessible with Ahmad's specific, written permission.

Extent

30.00 Boxes

Abstract

Maher Ahmad (B.A. 71, M.F.A. 74) is a highly successful production designer who has worked in theater, television, and film from Chicago to New York City to Hollywood.  The Maher Ahmad Papers consist of material relating to his early life and general education, but primarily focuses on his work as a designer for the theater.  The bulk of the collection is production design materials including set, lighting, and costume designs.  Ahmad's teaching notes for the numerous theatre-related classes he taught are also a central element in the collection.  Scrapbooks, slides of stage designs, theatre posters, theatre playbills, and more round out the material.

Source of Acquisition

Maher Ahmad
Method of Acquisition These materials were donated to the University Archives by Maher Ahmad in October of 2010.

Accruals and Additions

An addition was received on 2.25.2013 (Accession #13-45) from Maher Ahmad. It consists of one oversized folder with architectural construction drawings to be filed in the existing production number order (Series 11); one scrapbook from Ahmad's high school years (added to Series 13); a description of materials received; and instructions on how to file the items. The scrapbook has mud damage, but is stable, mold-free, and the conservation lab said that since the book is not in danger of deterioration and is legible, a thorough cleaning is not recommended at this time.

Creator

Title
Guide to the Maher Ahmad (1950-  ) Papers
Author
Jason Nargis
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard

Repository Details

Part of the Northwestern University Archives Repository

Contact:
Deering Library, Room 110
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston IL 60208-2300 US
847-491-3354