Papers of John Edward Blankenchip, professor emeritus of the USC School of Theatre. Blankenchip joined USC in 1955, just a
decade after the drama department was founded by playwright and director William C. DeMille, and continued to teach classes
in directing and experimental theatre at the school until a month before he died at the age of 89.
John Edward Blankenchip joined USC in 1955, just a decade after the drama department was founded by playwright and director
William C. DeMille, and continued to teach classes in directing and experimental theatre at the school until a month before
he died at the age of 89. Born in Independence, Kan., in 1919, he earned a BFA in design and directing from Carnegie Mellon
University in 1941. He immediately went to Yale University, attaining an MFA in design and directing in 1943. For the next
three years, first as assistant to designer Harry Horner and then on his own, he designed scenery, costumes and lighting both
on and off Broadway. From Broadway, Blankenchip moved to teaching. After eight years on the faculty of Sarah Lawrence College,
he decided to spend his 1955 sabbatical working as a designer at USC. James H. Butler, then head of the drama department,
offered him a teaching position. Blankenchip accepted and had been teaching at USC ever since. Blankenchip founded, produced
and directed Festival Theatre USC-USA, a company comprised of USC students and alumni who were the first American artists
to perform on the Fringe of the Edinburgh International Festival. From 1966 to 2005, the company mounted 23 seasons on the
Fringe; performed in London, Amsterdam and Paris; and completed three tours for the AMERIKA houses in Germany for the U.S.
State Department. He received Fringe First Awards for the British premieres of Buried Child and Follies. He directed the acclaimed
production of Vivien at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, in London, off Broadway and in Los Angeles at the Tiffany Theatre.
Blankenchip also designed at Tanglewood, the Guild Opera and the La Jolla Playhouse, and he directed and designed for the
Ebony Showcase. He was Ray Bradbury's preferred designer at his Pandemonium Theatre Company. Blankenchip's professionalism
manifested itself through former students who have gone on to successful careers both in and out of the theatre. He played
a key role in developing the original BFA and MFA theatre programs at USC, and from nearly the beginning, has been vital to
the School of Theatre's growing excellence. He died on April 1, 2009 after a brief illness.
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