Oenslager, Donald

Oenslager, Donald (Mitchell)

(1902–75) set designer; born in Harrisburg, Pa. He began as an actor, but turned to set design in 1924 after studying design in Europe. His early connections were with the Provincetown Players and the Greenwich Village Theatre. Along with Jo Mielziner and Robert Edmond Jones, he is credited as one of the creators of a new kind of less realistic, more symbolic theatrical design, although his designs tended to be decorative and elegant, rather than spare and stripped-down. He designed for opera and ballet as well as drama, and was on the faculty of the Yale School of Drama for nearly 50 years, until the end of his life. Among his productions are Of Mice and Men (1937), The Doctor's Dilemma, with Katharine Cornell (1941), Pygmalion, with Cedric Hardwicke (1945), Major Barbara, with Charles Laughton (1956), and A Majority of One (1959), for which he won a Tony Award. He is the author of Scenery Then and Now (1936).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.