101 Stories: Jay Depenbrock

By The Children's Theatre

Celebrate TCT’s 101st season as it comes to a close as we applaud and appreciate those who contributed to the organization’s magic throughout our century-long journey.  During 10 weeks of recognition, we honor individuals who have been instrumental in the success of TCT, and who have not only helped TCT grow in mission, but also thrive, thanks to their passion.  It is these people and their moments in our history that shaped TCT to become what it is today. We encourage you to consider giving a gift in their honor to ensure the sustainability of TCT’s mission for the next 100+ years. 

Jay Depenbrock

Jay Depenbrock provided much of the magic in memorable performances of the Cincinnati Ballet, Cincinnati Opera, and The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati over three decades. 

The premier set and lighting designer in the city during the 1980s and 1990s, he was one of Cincinnati’s most creative artists. Mr. Depenbrock served as the Resident Set and Lighting Designer for The Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati from 1995 through 2004. 

Mr. Depenbrock began designing sets, lighting, and costumes for the Cincinnati Ballet in 1968. He created the set and lighting for the company’s first performance of THE NUTCRACKER in 1974, which was one of his favorites. He also created the sets and lighting for PETER PAN, SWAN LAKE, and PETER AND THE WOLF. In the 2000 season, he was the Set Designer for ROMEO AND JULIETTE. 

In 2003, Mr. Depenbrock celebrated his 31st year with Cincinnati Opera as Resident Set and Lighting Designer, where he designed more than 35 opera sets and lit more than 120 productions.    

A Cincinnati native, Mr. Depenbrock was the son of Ivo Depenbrock and Margaret Bauers Depenbrock. Growing up on Cincinnati’s West Side, he loved the theater from the time he was four years old. He put on shows in his backyard as a child and acted at Elder High School. 

Mr. Depenbrock began parking cars at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park around 1960. He pestered them to let him help out in a production and worked his way up from props to house manager. 

Outside Cincinnati, he was the Resident Lighting Designer for the Pittsburgh Opera – where he lit more than 100 productions from 1978 until 1992, and the Dayton Opera from 1996 to 2001. He was a guest designer for the Tulsa Ballet Theatre from 1978 until 2000. And, as a freelancer, he worked on sets for the Cleveland Opera, the Connecticut Grand Opera, and the Seattle Opera.  

Mr. Depenbrock’s work has been seen in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, plus dozens of other American cities. In Europe, he has designed in Brussels and Amsterdam. He also created special set designs aboard the ship, the QE II. In addition, he was the art director for PBS specials from 1994 to 2000. As such, he designed sets for six national broadcasts of the Cincinnati Pops as well as the Fourth of July celebration live from Riverbend in Cincinnati. 

Mr. Depenbrock was 65 when passed away on October 25, 2006, following a long illness. At the time of his death, survivors included a sister, Betty Ann Hoffer, his partner of 25 years, David Schmidtz, who passed away in 2009; and a brother, Bob Depenbrock who passed away in 2013. 

“I will miss him terribly. Jay was a good friend and one of the most creative artists I’ve ever known. He was a modern-day Rumpelstiltskin. He could turn straw into gold. Jay was an instrumental figure in taking The Children’s Theatre to a whole new level of excellence.”  

JackLouiso, TCT’s Former Artistic Director 

Would you honor Jay Depenbrock with a gift to recognize the impact made on TCT?