Ming Cho Lee: a life in design

O'Gorman, Siobhán (2016) Ming Cho Lee: a life in design. Theatre and Performance Design, 1 (3). pp. 273-274. ISSN 2332-2551


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Item Type:Review
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Arnold Aronson’s Ming Cho Lee: A Life in Design draws on 150 hours of personal interviews with
Ming Cho Lee to offer an expansive, cogent and immensely readable volume. It balances the
author’s clear admiration for Lee’s work with shrewd critique, exposing the realities and practicalities
of ‘a life in design’ in terms of training, collaboration, creative problem-solving, financial
precariousness and the struggle for success (Lee appeared to be cursed when it came to
working on Broadway, for example). Having moved from Hong Kong to California in 1949,
Lee majored in theatre at Occidental College before enrolling in the graduate design programme
at UCLA. He left after one year, moving to New York to follow instead an apprentice-
style training route, assisting such eminent designers as Jo Mielziner and Boris Aronson.
After establishing himself independently in the late 1950s, he went on to work on theatre,
dance and opera productions with such prominent practitioners as Joseph Papp, Martha
Graham and Tito Capobianco respectively. Financial instability led him to teaching, and he
initially failed in this role at NYU’s School for the Arts. However, he went on to become a
lauded mentor (with one student even describing him as Dumbledore (167)) at Yale School
of Drama between 1969 and 2012, where he progressed gradually to Head of Design.
Aronson offers detailed accounts of all these activities and more; as such, we learn much
about Lee’s collaborators, influences and scenography in general.

Keywords:scenography, theatre design, American culture, Theatre
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W460 Theatre Design
W Creative Arts and Design > W440 Theatre studies
T Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian Languages, Literature and related subjects > T700 American studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Performing Arts)
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ID Code:23273
Deposited On:08 Jun 2016 08:45

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