Ming Cho Lee, Fabled Set Designer, Is Useless at 90

His mother and father divorced, and he stayed along with his father, who moved his enterprise to British-ruled Hong Kong with the rise of Communism in China. In 1949 Mr. Lee went to the USA for faculty, and stayed.

“I primarily grew to become a refugee as a result of I had no place to return to,” he advised The Washington Submit in 2001. “Hong Kong at the moment was not a simple place to get again in.”

He enrolled at Occidental Faculty in Los Angeles, however his English was nonetheless imperfect, giving him bother in lecture courses. So, having been portray since he was a younger teenager, he enrolled in “each drawing class I may get my palms on,” he advised The Instances in 2014.

“I’d get A’s,” he mentioned, “which balanced the D’s I acquired in freshman English. They saved my life.”

After incomes a bachelor’s diploma in 1953 at Occidental and a short keep in graduate faculty on the College of California, Los Angeles, he moved to New York in 1954 and have become an assistant to Jo Mielziner, some of the prolific set designers in Broadway historical past. A lot of Mr. Lee’s early Broadway credit had been as Mr. Mielziner’s assistant. He additionally labored with Boris Aronson, one other high stage designer (no relation to Professor Aronson).

Mr. Lee was principal designer for Papp’s New York Shakespeare Pageant from 1962 to 1973. His early work was performed earlier than physique microphones changed stationary ones, which meant that, as modern as his designs for Papp generally had been, they began with a really mundane consideration.

“In designing for Shakespeare within the Park,” he as soon as mentioned, “the very first thing you do is determine the place to place the microphones. It was all very primitive. All of the staging was managed by the place you’re in relation to the mikes.”

A very putting effort from that interval was his set for the 1964 manufacturing of Sophocles’ “Electra” on the Delacorte Theater in Central Park: three stone sculptural partitions on a metallic framework. It was, he told The Times in 2014, his first set with “a totally nonliteral summary design, although on the identical time it was actual, an emblem, an icon.”

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