Stage and television designer dies

The Associated Press
Friday November 15, 2002

Henry May, the Emmy Award-winning set designer who collaborated with artistic luminaries such as Orson Welles and Leonard Bernstein, has died at a nursing home. He was 81. 

May suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and died at a Washington, D.C. nursing home on Nov. 4, according to the University of California, Berkeley where he was a professor emeritus in the Department of Dramatic Arts. 

May’s sets were recognized for their symmetrical balance and attention to detail. He designed sets for television and stage, including work at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the New England Conservatory of Music. 

“Henry was a designer. He had to be able to sense what the director had or wanted as a central vision for the play. He did clear, beautiful designs,” said Robert Goldsby, a professor emeritus who worked alongside May at UC Berkeley. 

After earning a bachelor’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Illinois in 1943, May joined the Navy and served as a lieutenant. He returned home to study scenic design at Yale. 

In 1958, May won an Emmy Award for his artistic direction of “Boswell’s Life of Johnson,” which aired on major television networks as part of the 1950s variety show “Omnibus.” 

May later joined the faculty staff at UC Berkeley and became chair of Department of Dramatic Arts. While there May was awarded a Guggenheim Foundation award, the first ever given to a scenic designer. 

May retired from the university in 1991. 

He is survived by his daughter, Laurie Trippett, a sister, Bettina Barasch of Lido Beach, N.Y., and one granddaughter.