Emmy Award-winning art director Dahl Delu came to Landmark Musicals through happenstance.
Myra Cochnar, Landmark’s producer and artistic director, said her husband was delivering a “Hello, Dolly!” banner to the head of the University of New Mexico’s scene shop and was impressed with the set he saw being built for the UNM production of “Blithe Spirit.”
Cochnar found out that Delu was the set designer for the Noel Coward play, not knowing his extensive theater background.
She arranged for Dalu and his wife, Yvonne, to see “Hello, Dolly!” and afterwards asked if he was interested in working for Landmark Musicals.
“Now he is our resident set designer,” Cochnar said.
Delu’s first Landmark job is with “Carousel.”
He started out in theater as a fellowship student at the prestigious Guthrie Theater, where he was scenic and costume designer for three shows. From the late 1960s to the mid-’70s, he was in New York City, where he spent most of his time painting sets for the Metropolitan Opera. He also designed sets for the Broadway revival of “Oh! Calcutta!” and for a couple of off-Broadway shows.
He returned to Minnesota as resident designer for the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre Company. Then Delu and his wife, also a set designer, moved to Los Angeles on a lark.
“I got three days’ work for (the TV show) ‘Diff’rent Strokes.’ I stayed for six years as the art director,” he said.
Delu worked on several other TV shows when he was offered the post of art director for the fifth season of the popular TV show “Cheers.” He stayed for seven seasons. That led to other television work, including art director of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
While in Hollywood, he won two Emmys, one for art direction for an episode for the dramatic TV series “Insight” and another in 2000 for a show called “Love and Money.”
Since moving to Albuquerque in 2009, Delu co-taught a theater design class at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design and in the process, ended up designing the school’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
“Someone from UNM came to see it,” Delu said.
He learned that UNM had a vacancy for a design teacher and he was offered a part-time position as a teacher of scene design and history of style and design, plus designing one show a year. That became a full-time post for two years.
Some of his UNM design students, he said, have been working on “Carousel.”
Michael Hidalgo is lighting designer, Lydia Lopez is scenic artist, Amaris Puzak is Delu’s design assistant, Charles DiLorenzo is design coordinator, John Aspholm is the head carpenter and Hans Engvall is working as a carpenter.
“It’s kind of like an extension of our classes together. I like the idea of passing it forward,” Delu said. “Designing for Landmark is very rewarding. They do a professional-quality production.”