Following surgery in February, Mr. Mitchell staged Doubt at the Fulton, and also directed the current production of Oklahoma! — with some assistance, as his health began to fail. That production, closing Sept. 28, launched the Fulton Theatre's 2008-2009 season, which marked the 10th anniversary of Mr. Mitchell's artistic directorship.
Born in Tulsa, OK, he was the son of the late Dan Addison and Iva Pauline Blackstock Mitchell. Mr. Mitchell spent his life as a professional director and educator. He held a Master of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and had held teaching positions from the University of Texas and Oberlin College.
During his career, Mr. Mitchell directed more than 150 productions including the world premieres of the musicalization of Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Cyrano, the highly regarded Treasure and Lightning Rod. Under his 10-year leadership of the Fulton, the theatre commissioned and produced nine world premieres.
He also served on the staff of the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre; was executive director for six years of the Civic Theatre of Fort Wayne, IN; and in 1987, the Governor of Nebraska named him an Admiral in the Nebraska Navy, for outstanding contributions to the cultural life of that state. From 1993-1999, he was the artistic director of the Phoenix Theatre, Arizona's oldest professional arts organization. In 1998, he received an Arizona Award for direction of the critically acclaimed production of Ghetto.
Mr. Mitchell was also guest director for a number of theatres including Skylight Opera (Milwaukee), Theatre Tulsa (Oklahoma), Black Theatre Troupe (Arizona) and Nebraska Repertory Theatre. He had served on the board of the Lancaster Historical Society and as a member of the advisory council for the Dean of Arts and Humanities at Millersville University.
Mr. Mitchell was a member of St. James Episcopal Church (North Duke & Orange Street) in Lancaster, where his funeral service will be held Sept. 29 at 1:30 PM. Interment will be in the church's Memorial Garden. Following the service a tribute to commemorate his work in theatre and a reception will be held at the Fulton Theatre, 12 N. Prince St. Friends may call at the church on Monday from 12:30 PM until time of service.
In the coming season at Fulton, he was set to direct productions of The Unexpected Guest, Parade and Les Misérables.
Aaron A, Young, Fulton Theatre's managing director, told Playbill.com, "He had a way of embracing actors that I have never seen before — really helping the characters to come out of them instead of being put on them. There was always a way of doing it so that everything seemed like the actor's idea. We called it directing by expert suggestion…as a result, the actors really had a growth experience that they've commented to me about over the years."
The LORT C Equity troupe now faces the slow and painful task of having to replace a beloved member of its family.
Survivors include his sister, Patricia Park, Sacramento CA; three nephews: Richard Park, Michael Brandon Park and Matthew Park, all of Phoenix, AZ and his favorite companion, his dog Barkley.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be sent to The Michael D. Mitchell Artistic Endowment c/o The Fulton Theatre, P.O. Box 1865, Lancaster, PA 17608-1865.