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Scene Designer Douglas W. Schmidt to Celebrate New Book at The Drama Book Shop, 4/30


Broadway and regional scene designer Douglas W. Schmidt will be in New York City on Thursday, April 30, to celebrate the release of a new book on his work, The Designs of Douglas W. Schmidt, at The Drama Book Shop, 250 W. 40th St.

Schmidt will participate in a Talk Back interview at 5 p.m., followed by a book-signing and wine and cheese reception with the book's authors, Annie and Barry Cleveland.

The book is the latest in USITT's Designs of series on famous American theatrical designers. The Clevelands also wrote The Designs of Carrie Robbins (2011), for which Schmidt wrote the foreword.

Schmidt recently received USITT's 2015 Distinguished Achievement Award in Scene Design, presented at the organization's annual conference in Cincinnati last month.

After starting his career at Cincinnati's Playhouse in the Park, Schmidt became an assistant to Ming Cho Lee in 1964, and went on to design scenery for 57 Broadway shows including Grease (1972), A Streetcar Named Desire (1973), They're Playing Our Song (1979), Porgy and Bess (1983), and Damn Yankees (1994). He has two Tony nominations, for 42nd Street (2001) and Into the Woods (2002), and three Drama Desk awards, among other accolades.

Since moving to San Francisco in 1982, he has designed sets for regional theatres including the Guthrie Theatre, American Conservatory Theatre, and San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, as well as opera, dance, film, and theme parks.

Besides his design genius, Schmidt is known for his wit and sense of humor, Barry Cleveland said. In Cincinnati, Schmidt told a story about one of his early Broadway shows, Paris is Out! (1970), which taught him "an important life lesson."

The female lead was tiny Molly Picon, and the costume designer gave Schmidt color swatches for her clothes, "which I put into the flat file and never looked at again," he said. He built and painted the set, tech week arrived and the actors came out for the costume parade.

"And there's Molly Picon in a dress the exact same color as the walls I had painted," Schmidt said. "Everyone was, 'What? Where is she?' It was just this little face. ... I was in a very embarrassing position, and I had to repaint the set. And for the first time, I realized the importance of collaboration."

Recordings of that and other sessions featuring Schmidt at USITT 2015 will be available later this month at Besides the Drama Book Shop, The Designs of Douglas W. Schmidt also can be purchased online here.

USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, is the national non-profit association for performing arts and live entertainment design and technology. For information, visit

The Drama Book Shop is at

Pictured: Douglas W. Schmidt receives the 2015 USITT Distinguished Achievement Award from USITT Scene Design Commissioner Michelle Harvey in Cincinnati last month. Photo by Glenn Ellman.

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