Mielziner, Jo, 1901-1976

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1901-03-19
Death 1976-03-15
Americans
English

Biographical notes:

Actor, scene designer, and lighting designer and innovator; d. 1976.

From the description of Jo Mielziner collection, [193-]-[197-]. (Boston University). WorldCat record id: 70923011

Donald Mitchell Oenslager, an American stage designer and professor, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on 7 March 1902. Oenslager began his career in the theater as an actor, working at the Greenwich Village Theatre and the Provincetown Playhouse during the early 1920s. He became interested in theater design after studying in Europe and his first project as a designer was in 1925 for a ballet, Sooner or Later. Oenslager was active as a designer from the 1930's to the 1960s, working on many notable Broadway productions, including Of Mice and Men (1937) and A Majority of One (1959), for which he received a Tony Award. He also served as a faculty member of the Yale School of Drama, teaching design from 1925 until his death in 1975, publishing many works, including Scenery Then and Now (1936) and Notes on Scene Painting (1952). Profoundly influenced by the European stage designers, Edward Gordon Craig and Adolphe Appia, Oenslager brought a new emphasis on symbolism over realism to American theater design. Throughout his life, Oenslager built up an extensive collection of materials on both Craig and Appia. Following his death on 11 June 1975, Oenslager's widow, Mary, gave portions of the Craig material to the New York Public Library's Billy Rose Theatre Division, while other parts of the collection went to Yale University.

From the guide to the Donald Oenslager papers and designs, 1922-1982, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

American scenic designer and originator of what theatre historian Oscar Brockett described as "theatricalized realism."

From the description of Collection, 1967. (University of California, Davis). WorldCat record id: 32513882

American, born France 1901-1976.

From the description of Typed letter, signed, dated : New York, to his daughter Jennifer, 1957 Aug. 16, 1957 Aug. 16. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 270892877

Jo Mielziner, theatrical designer.

From the description of Set design drawing for Ethan Frome, n.d. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122580936

From the description of Stage designs. 1931-1968. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122408004

From the description of Blueprints for Death of a salesman. 1948-1949. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122407989

From the description of Unidentified set design drawing: 1931. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 86164361

From the description of Set design for Abe Lincoln in Illinois, 1938. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122517928

From the description of Set design drawing for A tree grows in Brooklyn, n.d. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122575631

From the description of Costume design for Ophelia, 1936. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122576329

From the guide to the Set design for Abe Lincoln in Illinois, 1938, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

From the guide to the Stage designs, 1931-1968, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

From the guide to the Blueprints for Death of a salesman, 1948-1949, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

From the guide to the Unidentified set design drawing:, 1931, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

From the guide to the Set design drawing for Ethan Frome, undated, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

From the guide to the Costume design for Ophelia, 1936, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Set and lighting designer, theater architect and consultant, Jo Mielziner was born in Paris to American parents, but spent most of his life in New York City.

Highly successful, he designed scenes for approximately 270 plays, musicals, revues and an occasional opera, movie and ballet beginning with the Theatre Guild production of THE GUARDSMAN in 1924. Memorable successes include STRANGE INTERLUDE, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, CAROUSEL, THE KING AND I, SOUTH PACIFIC, PICNIC and the opera, THE EMPEROR JONES. His architectural credits include the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and special projects such as his work on the New York World's Fair.

From the description of Jo Mielziner papers, designs and technical drawings, 1903-1976. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 122517148

Born in Paris in 1901, Jo (born Joseph) Mielziner became in adulthood the quintessential New Yorker, leaving for short periods of time only when it was necessary in his work. His father Leo, of middle-European Jewish ancestry, was an artist in Paris at the time of his birth; his mother Ella Friend, of mixed colonial and recent Irish immigrant heritage, was a correspondent for Vogue Magazine and a freelance journalist. The family returned to America in 1909. Jo and his older brother Leo, Jr. attended the Ethical Culture School in New York but were never graduated. Jo turned to art study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia and Leo, Jr. became an actor under the name Kenneth MacKenna.

It was Kenneth who introduced Jo to the theater and urged him to follow a career as a scene designer. He worked as an apprentice and assistant to Robert Edmond Jones and Lee Simonson, both leading exponents of the New Stagecraft, a movement that emphasized the importance of scenery in the interpretation of a play or musical. Their insistence on making the designer a full collaborator in the production process brought a new day to stage art in America. Mielziner struck out on his own, gaining confidence in his ability to ferret out the right scenic metaphor for the production. He soon outstripped his mentors. His first real success was his designing for The Guardsman (1924), an early Theatre Guild production that brought attention to both the producing company and the designer. Between 1924 and his death in 1976, he designed some 270 plays, musicals, revues, and an occasional opera, movie and ballet. Among them were such memorable successes as Strange Interlude, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, Of Thee I Sing, the Little Shows, Look Homeward, Angel, Tea and Sympathy, Picnic, the motion picture Picnic, the ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and the opera The Emperor Jones .

Midway in his career, he turned his attention to the architecture of theaters out of his own displeasure in working in small, cramped and under-equipped stages and auditoriums. Although many of the projects on which he worked never came to fruition, his most notable achievements were the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, the Wake Forest University Theatre, the Power Center at the University of Michigan, Denver Theatre Center, and the Mark Taper Forum. From time to time, he also designed for such special projects as the Vatican display of the Pieta at the New York World's Fair, the White House East Room stage, and the convocation of the United Nations organization in San Francisco in 1945.

Mielziner lived and worked most of his life at the Dakota apartment house in New York, and died suddenly in a taxicab four days short of his 75th birthday.

From the guide to the Jo Mielziner designs and technical drawings, 1924-1976, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Born in Paris in 1901, Jo (born Joseph) Mielziner became in adulthood the quintessential New Yorker, leaving for short periods of time only when it was necessary in his work. His father Leo, of middle-European Jewish ancestry, was an artist in Paris at the time of his birth; his mother Ella Friend, of mixed colonial and recent Irish immigrant heritage, was a correspondent for Vogue Magazine and a freelance journalist. The family returned to America in 1909. Jo and his older brother Leo, Jr. attended the Ethical Culture School in New York but were never graduated. Jo turned to art study at the Pennsylvania Academy of Art in Philadelphia and Leo, Jr. became an actor under the name Kenneth MacKenna.

It was Kenneth who introduced Jo to the theater and urged him to follow a career as a scene designer. He worked as an apprentice and assistant to Robert Edmond Jones and Lee Simonson, both leading exponents of the New Stagecraft, a movement that emphasized the importance of scenery in the interpretation of a play or musical. Their insistence on making the designer a full collaborator in the production process brought a new day to stage art in America. Mielziner struck out on his own, gaining confidence in his ability to ferret out the right scenic metaphor for the production. He soon outstripped his mentors. His first real success was his designing for The Guardsman (1924), an early Theatre Guild production that brought attention to both the producing company and the designer. Between 1924 and his death in 1976, he designed some 270 plays, musicals, revues, and an occasional opera, movie and ballet. Among them were such memorable successes as Strange Interlude, Death of a Salesman, A Streetcar Named Desire, Carousel, The King and I, South Pacific, Of Thee I Sing, the Little Shows, Look Homeward, Angel, Tea and Sympathy, Picnic, the motion picture Picnic, the ballet Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, and the opera The Emperor Jones .

Midway in his career, he turned his attention to the architecture of theaters out of his own displeasure in working in small, cramped and under-equipped stages and auditoriums. Although many of the projects on which he worked never came to fruition, his most notable achievements were the Vivian Beaumont Theatre, the Wake Forest University Theatre, the Power Center at the University of Michigan, Denver Theatre Center, and the Mark Taper Forum. From time to time, he also designed for such special projects as the Vatican display of the Pieta at the New York World's Fair, the White House East Room stage, and the convocation of the United Nations organization in San Francisco in 1945.

Mielziner lived and worked most of his life at the Dakota apartment house in New York, and died suddenly in a taxicab four days short of his 75th birthday.

From the guide to the Jo Mielziner papers, 1903-1976, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

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Subjects:

  • Musicals
  • Revues
  • Theaters--Lighting
  • Costume design
  • Theater architecture
  • Musical revue, comedy, etc
  • Performing Arts
  • Theaters--Stage-setting and scenery
  • Theaters--Designs and plans
  • Set designers--United States

Occupations:

  • Stage lighting designers
  • Set designers
  • Actors

Places:

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