As a recipient of the National Medal of Arts in 2002 and the Tony award for lifetime achievement in 2013, Ming Cho Lee (b. 1930) is one of the most acclaimed living set designers in the U.S. Originally from Shanghai, Lee lived inHong Kong during his childhood before moving to the U.S. in 1949 to attend Occidental College and later UCLA.
Lee started his career on Broadway as an assistant set designer to Jo Mielziner, “the most successful set designer of the Golden Era of Broadway.” Lee would go on to design sets for over twenty Broadway shows, including The Glass Menagerie, King Lear, and The Shadow Box, and countless more for the Metropolitan Opera, the New York City Opera, ballet, and regional theatres. Lee served on the faculty at Yale School of Drama from 1969 to 2017, including as the co-chair of the Design Department. On March 18th, 2016, MOCA had the opportunity to sit down with Lee to discuss the impact of his childhood experiences, especially those of his mother taking him to theater performances and movies, his time attending Occidental College, and his determination to become a major theater set designer. MOCA featured an exhibition with Lee’s set designs in 2016 and hold his oral history in our collection.