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L.A. Designer, Director Blankenchip Dies

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Designer and director John Edw. Blankenchip died in Los Angeles on April 1 of age-related causes, sources say. He was 89. His career in the theatre spanned six and a half decades.

Born in Independence, Kansas on November 14, 1919, he received an MFA in directing and designing from Yale in 1943. Drafted into the army, he served as assistant to legendary designer Harry Horner on the wartime Broadway production Winged Victory, continuing in that capacity when George Cukor transferred the show to film in 1944.

Blankenchip contributed scenic, costume and lighting designs to two subsequent Broadway shows, "Angel in the Pawnshop" (1951) and The Long Watch (1952). He taught at Sarah Lawrence for 8 years, then joined the faculty of USC in 1955. He remained at USC School of Theatre for 54 years, and taught until one month before his death.

He founded Festival Theatre USC-USA , which became the first university-based contingent to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, traveling there 23 times between 1966 and 2005 and which also performed in London, Amsterdam Paris and Germany. He received Fringe First Awards for the British premieres of Follies and Buried Child.

Locally, he designed for the Guild Opera Company in Hollywood, La Jolla Playhouse, Ebony Showcase Theatre in L.A., and was a resident designer for Ray Bradbury's Pandemonium Theatre Company, designing 15 productions at venues across the city, including the Ivar, Edgemar Center For The Arts, the Court Theatre, and most recently, Fremont Centre Theatre in South Pasadena, where hie designed shows including Green Town, Dandelion Wine, Leviathan '99, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit, and more. He was scheduled to design The Martian Chronicles for its Fall, 2009 production.

The USC School of Theatre has announced plans for a memorial celebration of his life later this year. He is survived in the memory of the many colleagues and students whose lives he touched.

His ashes are being returned to his childhood home of Chanute, Kansas.


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