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Donald Oenslager’s working career spanned fifty years of the New York stage and during those years his influence extended across the country in the work of the many distinguished stage designers who had been his students at the Yale School of Drama. His autobiographical introduction to this book is, therefore, both a history of and a commentary on the theatre in New York from 1920 to the 1970s, and it admits us to the reflections of one of the most versatile artists who worked at the center of that development. This is a designer’s book, and Donald Oenslager chose his subjects with a designer’s eye. Over thirty-five productions are discussed in the light of the problems of interpretation and realization that they posed to the set designer. More than ninety illustrations illuminate Oenslager’s mastery of the principles of design and his ability to exploit the technical possibilities of his theatre. “For twenty-five years, indeed ever since he did the settings for Sooner and Later down at the old and much lamented Neighborhood Playhouse, he has been making contributions to our theatre distinguished not only by their professionalism but by their versatility, their rightness, and their imagination. No playgoers who saw, for example, You Can't Take It With You, Pygmalion, The Doctor's Dilemma, Of Mice and Men, The Fabulous Invalid, Life With Mother, or the Players' Club revival of Uncle Tom's Cabin, can have forgotten the vital part Oenslager played in these productions, or the humor, the elegance, the beauty, the mastery of period details, and the variety of his work.”—John Mason Brown



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Wesleyan University Press




NEH, National Endowment of the Humanities, open books, Melon Foundation, open access humanities, Donald Oenslager, Oenslager, Theatre, Theater, Yale School of Drama, New York stage, Open Books, NEH, National Endowment for the Humanities, Open Source, Digital Humanities


Other Theatre and Performance Studies | Theatre and Performance Studies | Theatre History


The Theatre of Donald Oenslager, by Donald Oenslager, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Publication of this title is funded by the Humanities Open Book program, a joint initiative of The National Endowment for the Humanities and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Images reproduced on pages 28, 31 are reproduced with permission from The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre (NYC)

The image reproduced on page 51 is reproduced with the permission of Detroit Institute of Arts, USA/Bridgman Images

Images reproduced on pages 73, 113, and 123 are reproduced with the permission of Vandamm Studio/ © The New York Library

The Theatre of Donald Oenslager