Eugene Lee Dead: Production Designer of Saturday Night Live Dies at 83!
Eugene Lee passed away on Monday, 6 February 2023, in Providence, Rhode Island, after a brief illness. He was a six-time Emmy-winning production designer for Saturday Night Live since 1975 and a multiple Tony winner for Broadway classics like Wicked, Sweeney Todd, and Candide. He was 83.
Lee has been the production designer of SNL since the year of the show’s launch, making him the production team member with the longest tenure on the NBC program. In addition, he worked as a production designer for various SNL specials and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon from 2014 until 2018.
Along with other television movies, he oversaw the production design for Late Night with Seth Meyers and the 2000 film On Golden Pond. Lee had 18 Emmy nominations for his work in television production design. He won six of them, including back-to-back awards for Outstanding Art Direction for Variety or Nonfiction Programming from 2017 to 2021.
Along with winning Tony Awards, Lee’s stage performances have received recognition from the New York Drama Desk, the Lucille Lortel Award, and the Pell Award. The American Theater Hall of Fame and the New York Theater Hall of Fame have inducted him.
Sweeney Todd in 1979, Gilda Radner – Live From New York in 1979, Merrily We Roll Along in 1981, Seussical in 2001, Wicked in 2003, A Streetcar Named Desire in 2012, Glengarry Glen Ross in 2012, and, most recently, Amazing Grace are just a few of Lee’s countless Broadway performances (2015).
In Providence, Lee was also a key figure in the establishment of Trinity Rep, where he worked as the theater’s resident set designer until his passing. (Lee was a native of Wisconsin and a lifelong Providence resident.) Adrian Hall, the founding artistic director of the theater company and a close friend of Lee’s, passed away this weekend at the age of 95.
Trinity Rep artistic director Curt Columbus said:
“Eugene Lee was a once-in-a-generation theater artist, one of the greatest minds to ever answer the question ‘What is theater?’”
“He was simultaneously playful and profound, childlike and rigorous, a genius who sees the world in ways that others only dream. Every time I worked with Eugene as a designer, my work as a director became more bold, more expansive, and more true. It is one of the greatest honors of my life in the theater that I could call Eugene Lee my collaborator and my friend. Words cannot express how much he will be missed.”
With The Importance of Being Earnest, Lee debuted his Trinity Rep stage design after joining the company in 1967. Most recently, he was slated to collaborate with Patrick Lynch to create the set for this spring’s production of Sweeney Todd.
You can also look at the following tweet:
RIP Eugene Lee ❤️ pic.twitter.com/BoNitdlLhY
— The Saturday Night Network (@thesnlnetwork) February 26, 2023
The Cherry Orchard (1988 and 2006), School for Wives (1991), Homebody/Kabul (2002), Twelfth Night (2010), The Fantasticks (2007), Camelot (2010), Oliver! (2014), The Glass Menagerie (1992 and 2015), Ragtime (2018), Marisol (2019), A Tale of Two Cities (2020), and numerous productions of A Christmas Carol are among Trinity Rep’s other notable design credits.
Francis Ford Coppola’s Hammett, Danny Huston’s Mr. North, Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Street, and Jonathan Demme’s A Master Builder are just a few of Lee’s feature film credits. His wife Brooke, sons Willie and Ted, their spouses Kate and Greta, grandchildren Lucy and Otis, twin brother Thomas, nephew Graham, and Graham’s wife Pam are the people he leaves behind.
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Donations can be offered in place of flowers to Trinity Rep, the RI Community Food Bank, WaterFire Providence, and the Providence Animal Rescue League. At a later time, there will be a memorial service for him.
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