David Mitchell

Designer

Also known as: David I. Mitchell

Male

Born: November 30, 1931
Honesdale, Pennsylvania

Died: October 3, 2011
Los Angeles, California

Obituary: David I. Mitchell, a seven-time Tony Award nominee and two-time Tony Award winner, and a scenic designer for Broadway, opera and ballet, died Oct. 3 2011 in Los Angeles. He was 79.

Mr. Mitchell won his Tonys for his whimsical, circus-like set design of the 1980 musical Barnum and for the Studs Terkel-inspired 1978 musical Working.

"When circumstances require it," wrote Frank Rich of Barnum in the New York Times, "Mr. Mitchell is not averse to sending scenery flying from all directions, including the floor. Yet the set is more than a collection of pretty gimcracks. Its roseate, gaslit glow and golden crown of letters spelling out America suggest another, deeper entertainment."

But perhaps his most famous set was that for the mega-hit Annie, in which Mitchell invoked a glamorous, fairy-tale image of Depression-era New York, as well as the grandeur of Daddy Warbucks' mansion. He almost turned down the job. "I don't think anybody would continue in this business unless there was a chance to hit that kind of jackpot," he said.

Mr. Mitchell was nominated for a Tony for Annie, as well as Trelawny of the "Wells", Foxfire, The Boys of Winter and the 1990 revival of Can-Can. He won a Drama Desk Award for his design of Short Eyes in 1990.

David I. Mitchel was born in Honesdale, PA, and grew up in the Poconos. He attended Kutztown State Teachers College. After two years in the U.S. Army, he began studying theatre design as a graduate student at Boston University. His teacher there was Horace Armistead, a designer for theatre, opera and ballet and the winner of the first Tony Award given for set design.

In New York, Mr. Mitchell worked for several years as an assistant to Ming Cho Lee, who became a great mentor. Through Lee, he began a long-time association with Joseph Papp, designing sets both for Shakespeare in the Park and at the Public Theater. His first Broadway credit was 1970's No Place to Be Somebody, the Pulitzer Prize winner that began life at the Public.

At the New York City Ballet, he designed works choreographed by Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine, as well as for the recent full-length Sleeping Beauty. His opera designs included works at the New York City Opera and other U.S. opera houses as well as Deutsche Oper in Berlin. His films include "My Dinner With Andre."

Mr. Mitchell's other theatre credits, among many, included I Love My Wife, The Gin Game, Brighton Beach Memoirs, La Cage aux Folles, Legs Diamond, Tru and his last, Dream.

The designer said he loved to build models of his sets far more than rendering drawings, and described the basement of his brownstone as "an elephant's graveyard of models." Mr. Mitchell didn't get to achieve every one of the innumerable ideas he dreamt up for Barnum. One notion was to send the actors playing Barnum and singer Jenny Lind up in the air in a balloon that would fly to the second balcony on a steel track. Then the director discovered the needed insurance would cost "something like $2 billion." "That took care of the balloon."

 

Roles

Playbill Cover - Dream Dream
Apr. 3, 1997 - Jul. 6, 1997
Scenic Design
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Ain't Broadway Grand Ain't Broadway Grand
Apr. 18, 1993 - May 9, 1993
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The High Rollers Social and Pleasure Club The High Rollers Social and Pleasure Club
Apr. 21, 1992 - May 2, 1992
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Big Love The Big Love
Mar. 3, 1991 - Apr. 7, 1991
Projection Design
(Original)
 
    Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Tru Tru
Dec. 14, 1989 - Sep. 1, 1990
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Legs Diamond Legs Diamond
Dec. 26, 1988 - Feb. 19, 1989
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Broadway Bound Broadway Bound
Dec. 4, 1986 - Sep. 25, 1988
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Boys of Winter The Boys of Winter
Dec. 1, 1985 - Dec. 8, 1985
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Odd Couple The Odd Couple
Jun. 11, 1985 - Feb. 23, 1986
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Biloxi Blues Biloxi Blues
Mar. 28, 1985 - Jun. 28, 1986
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Harrigan 'n Hart Harrigan 'n Hart
Jan. 31, 1985 - Feb. 3, 1985
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - La Cage aux Folles La Cage aux Folles
Aug. 21, 1983 - Nov. 15, 1987
Scenic Design
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Dance a Little Closer Dance a Little Closer
May 11, 1983 - May 11, 1983
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Private Lives Private Lives
May 8, 1983 - Jul. 17, 1983
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Brighton Beach Memoirs Brighton Beach Memoirs
Mar. 27, 1983 - May 11, 1986
Scenic Design
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Foxfire Foxfire
Nov. 11, 1982 - May 15, 1983
Scenic Design
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Can-Can Can-Can
Apr. 30, 1981 - May 3, 1981
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Bring Back Birdie Bring Back Birdie
Mar. 5, 1981 - Mar. 7, 1981
Scenic Design
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Barnum Barnum
Apr. 30, 1980 - May 16, 1982
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
The Price
Jun. 19, 1979 - Oct. 21, 1979
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - I Remember Mama I Remember Mama
May 31, 1979 - Sep. 2, 1979
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Working Working
May 14, 1978 - Jun. 4, 1978
Scenic Design
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - The Gin Game The Gin Game
Oct. 6, 1977 - Dec. 31, 1978
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Annie Annie
Apr. 21, 1977 - Jan. 2, 1983
Scenic Design
(Original)
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - I Love My Wife I Love My Wife
Apr. 17, 1977 - May 20, 1979
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Mrs. Warren's Profession Mrs. Warren's Profession
Feb. 18, 1976 - Apr. 4, 1976
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Trelawny of the Trelawny of the "Wells"
Oct. 15, 1975 - Nov. 23, 1975
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Little Black Sheep Little Black Sheep
May 7, 1975 - Jun. 1, 1975
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Short Eyes Short Eyes
May 23, 1974 - Aug. 4, 1974
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - The Incomparable Max The Incomparable Max
Oct. 19, 1971 - Nov. 6, 1971
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - How the Other Half Loves How the Other Half Loves
Mar. 29, 1971 - Jun. 26, 1971
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
Playbill Cover - Grin and Bare It! / Postcards Grin and Bare It! / Postcards
Mar. 16, 1970 - Mar. 28, 1970
Scenic Design
(Original)
 
    Scenic Design
(Original)
 
 

Inside the Playbill (13)

See more Who's Who

Awards


Drama Desk Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1980 Outstanding Set Design Barnum Nominee
1978 Outstanding Set Design The Gin Game Nominee
1974 Outstanding Set Design Short Eyes Winner

Outer Critics Circle

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1977 Outstanding Set Design Annie Winner

Tony Award

Year Category Production Winner/Nominee
1986 Scenic Design (Play or Musical) The Boys of Winter Nominee
1983 Scenic Design (Play or Musical) Foxfire Nominee
1981 Scenic Design (Play or Musical) Can-Can Nominee
1980 Scenic Design (Play or Musical) Barnum Winner
1978 Scenic Design (Play or Musical) Working Nominee
1977 Scenic Design (Play or Musical) Annie Winner
1976 Scenic Design (Play or Musical) Trelawny of the "Wells" Nominee
 
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