Oliver Smith born 13 February 1918 (d. 1994)
Oliver Smith was one of the most distinguished and prolific Tony Award-winning scenic designers in American theatre history.
Born in Waupun, Wisconsin, Smith attended Penn State, after which he moved to New York City and began to form friendships that blossomed into working relationships with such talents as Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Carson McCullers, and choreographer Agnes de Mille. His career was launched with his designs for Léonide Massine's ballet Saratoga in 1941 and de Mille's Rodeo in 1942.
Smith designed dozens of Broadway musicals, films (Guys and Dolls, The Band Wagon, Oklahoma!, Porgy and Bess, West Side Story, The Sound of Music), and operas. His association with the American Ballet Theatre began in 1944, when he collaborated with Robbins and Bernstein on Fancy Free, which served as the inspiration for On the Town. The following year, he became Co-Director of ABT with Lucia Chase, a position he held until 1980.
Smith also trained young designers for many years, serving on the faculty of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, where he taught master classes in scenic design.
Throughout his career, Smith was nominated for twenty-five Tony Awards, often multiple times in the same year, and won ten. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction for his work on Guys and Dolls.
Smith died of emphysema in Brooklyn, New York in 1994.
Pictured: Members of the Artistic Committee of Ballet Theatre in 1947: L-R: Jerome Robbins, Lucia Chase, Agnes de Mille, Oliver Smith and Aaron Copland.
Photo: Cecil Beaton.
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