Broadway Scenic Designer Eldon Elder Is Dead at 76

News   Broadway Scenic Designer Eldon Elder Is Dead at 76 Eldon Elder, a prolific scenic designer and educator whose work was seen on Broadway and regionally, died Dec. 11, several weeks after suffering a heart attack, according to friends.
Eldon Elder.
Eldon Elder. (Photo by Photo by Arden Weaver)

Eldon Elder, a prolific scenic designer and educator whose work was seen on Broadway and regionally, died Dec. 11, several weeks after suffering a heart attack, according to friends.

Mr. Elder was 76 and lived in Manhattan. He requested no funeral, but a public memorial is expected in the coming year, said friend and theatre design expert Mary Henderson.

One of Mr. Elder's last designs was for Chili Queen, a dark comedy by the TV newsman Jim Lehrer, at the Helen Hayes Performing Arts Center in Nyack, NY , and the Coronet Theatre in Los Angeles. His varied work since his professional career began in 1949 included designs for musicals, plays and operas, including Shakespeare in Central Park for producer Joseph Papp.

Henderson called Mr. Elder "a very solid, talented, sensitive, terrific designer."

"That generation did everything," Henderson observed. "If they had to design a theatre, they designed a theatre, if they had to design a new type scenery...he was multifaceted man." Mr. Elder authored the books, "Will It Make a Theatre? Find, Renovate & Finance the Non-Traditional Performance Space" and "Designs for the Theatre."

Mr. Elder's Broadway credits — he was mostly set designer, but also occasionally did lighting and costumes — include Legend of Lovers, Time Out for Ginger, The Green-Eyed People, The Girl in Pink Tights, Take a Giant Step, The Young and Beautiful, Heavenly Twins, Fallen Angels, The Fun Couple and Shinbone Alley.

He designed many revivals at the St, Louis "Muny" and his work was also seen at the Westport Country Playhouse in Connecticut.

Mr. Elder designed sets and costumes for The New York Shakespeare Festival's Othello and Twelfth Night (both in 1958), Julius Caesar (1959), Henry V, The Taming of the Shrew and Measure for Measure (all in 1960).

He designed the new stage and settings for the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, CT, in 1962. He also designed for productions in Berlin, London and Johannesburg.

Mr. Elder was born in 1924 in Atchison, KS. He earned his MFA from Yale School of Drama in 1950. Over the years, he taught design at Brooklyn College and Carnegie Mellon. He also taught graduate seminars abroad, as far away as China. "Scenic designers build upon each other's contributions," said Henderson. "He built upon Jo Mielziner's, and other built upon Eldon Elder's."

Mr. Elder was on the adjudication committee of the USITT Design Expo — an exhibition sponsored by the Association of Design, Production and Technology Professionals in the Performing Arts and Entertainment Industry — in Long Beach, CA, in 1998. A small sample of his scenic design work was exhibited there. Mr. Elder was a founding member of USITT.

— By Kenneth Jones