Edward Mangum, who helped found Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., in 1950, died Jan. 10 at the South Austin Medical Center in Austin, TX. He was 87. Mr. Mangum was also the longtime Director of Theater at St. Edward's University in Texas.
Mr. Mangum was the head of the Drama Department at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., when he left that position to found the Arena Stage with five other colleagues, including Zelda and Tom Fichandler, whom he had taught. The Arena was one of the first resident theatres in the U.S., formed soon after the creation of the Alley Theatre in Houston. Armed with $15,000, the company presented their first season in a movie house, staging plays in the round.
Mr Mangum left the Arena after two years to head a theatre in Honolulu, Hawaii, after which Zelda Fichandler took over as head of the theatre.
According to a 1976 Playbill bio, Mr. Mangum drew on the design of Arena Stage when supervising the construction of the Mary Moody Northen Theater at St. Edward's, which he designed and architect Alvin Julian built. It was another arena format, with the audience on all four sides of the playing space, reported the Austin American-Statesman, and Mr. Mangum became something of an expert at directing on such a stage.
Mr. Mangum helped create the theatre major at the Texas university in 1965, and directed many shows there, often featuring such actors as Leonard Nimoy, Bill Macy, William Shatner, Mercedes McCambridge, Jackie Coogan, and Pernell Roberts. He retired in 1982. Mr. Mangum was born in 1913. He is survived by his wife Francesca Mangum. The couple had no children.
—By Robert Simonson