Ralph William Fetterly Biography

Ralph William Fetterly




Ralph William Fetterly was born in Oakland, California on July 20, 1938. He got his BA in architecture from Berkeley in 1965. Fetterly taught at the State University of New York, Buffalo, and the College of Marin before joining the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of California in Davis. A well-liked, enormously gifted man, he was a popular teacher and a prolific scenic designer who designed 16 University Theatre productions from 1982-90. He showed his paintings at Exhibitionist Gallery on Union St, San Francisco, on Feb. 21, 1970. His sets for The Most Happy Fella by Frank Loesser in spring 1984 received a commendation from the American College Theatre Festival. His last design at UC Davis was for Sweet Bird of Youth by Tennessee Williams in spring 1990.

On the Davis campus, he was noted for his generosity, giving countless hours to projects that went above and beyond his responsibilities as teacher or scenic designer. He simply never said, “no,” when his skills were needed. A talented graphic artist, he voluntarily designed many posters for university theater productions. In spring 1988, he was a member of a chancellor's committee set up for the purpose of refurbishing the Rec Hall for more formal occasions.

In 1978, he co-founded the Foothill Theatre Company of Nevada City with his wife Diane. He designed scenery and costumes for many productions there and served on its board of trustees. Fetterly's honors included two Elly Awards for scenic design from the Sacramento Area Regional Theatre Alliance (Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen in 1985 and Noises Off by Michael Frayn in 1988). In 1990, he received the Dr. Leland and Sally Lewis Visual Arts Award. In 1988, a collection of Fetterly's work was exhibited at UC Davis in a show entitled, “Forms and Flats.” He also designed the covers and illustrated several of Eric Bentley's books, including The Kleist Variations and Rallying Cries. Ralph W. Fetterly died in Nevada City, California on September, 30, 1991 at age 53.

Taken in part from University Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA