The 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards are Announced

by Michael Eddy
The 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Award Winners
The 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Award Winners

NEW YORK, NY—The Theatre Development Fund (TDF) is celebrating excellence in theatrical design with its 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards. Six-time Tony Award-winning costume designer Catherine Zuber and legendary scenic designer Tony Straiges are among the 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards recipients. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Friday, April 28, at 6:30pm, at the Edison Ballroom, 240 West 47th Street, NYC.

Further information from the Theatre Development Fund (TDF) (tdf.org)

Ms. Zuber was selected to receive the 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award for costume design and Mr. Straiges will receive the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design. Costume designer Paloma Young will receive the TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award and Ernest Young of Penn & Fletcher Embroidery, will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award. During the ceremony, as a special memorial tribute to the legendary designing team Motley, who were designers Margaret Harris, Sophie Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot, there will be a screening of an original 15-minute film on their career, created by designer Suzy Benzinger.

About the Awardees:

Catherine Zuber (TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award) has designed the costumes for 48 Broadway productions and is a six-time Tony Award-winner for Best Costume for The King and I (2015), The Royal Family (2009), South Pacific (2008), The Coast of Utopia (2007) Awake and Sing (2006) and The Light in the Piazza (2005). Her six additional Tony nominations include: Golden Boy (2012), Born Yesterday (2011), How to Succeed…(2011), Seascape (2005), Dinner at Eight (2002) and Twelfth Night (1998). For this season she has designed the costumes for Oslo and War Paint.

Ms. Zuber decided to study costume design at Yale University. She was 30 years old when she arrived at Yale and later admitted that when she first got there: “I didn’t know what a proscenium was.” She graduated in 1984 having studied with Michael Yeargan, Ming Cho Lee and her role model, costume designer Jane Greenwood. Michael Yeargan recommended her as a designer for an Andrei Serban production at the American Repertory Theatre, launching her career. She has worked extensively at Lincoln Center Theater and has designed extensively Off-Broadway, regionally, and for opera. She is also the recipient of the 1997 and 2005 Obie Award for Sustained Achievement.

Tony Straiges (Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design) has designed the sets for 17 Broadway musicals, plays and specials as well as countless regional productions, ballets, etc. He won a Tony Award for his set design of Sunday in the Park with George (1984) and was nominated for the sets for Into the Woods (1987). His other Broadway credits include: Enchanted April (2003), Golden Child (1998), Shimada (1992), I Hate Hamlet (1991), Artist Descending a Staircase (1989), Dangerous Games (1989), Rumors (1988), Long Day's Journey into Night (1986), Copperfield (1981), Harold and Maude (1980), King Richard III (1979), IceDancing (1978), A History of the American Film (1978), and Timbuktu! (1978).

Tony Straiges began studying art at a college near D.C., but quit before graduating because he was so involved with community theater groups in the area. He later became a design student at Yale School of Drama and then a resident professional designer at Yale Repertory Theatre during the 1970s, when both affiliated institutions were under the directorship of Robert Brustein. His Off-Broadway productions include Nathan the Wise (Classic Stage‐2016), Mother Courage and Her Children (Classic Stage‐2016), Doctor Faustus (Classic Stage‐2015), The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Classic Stage‐2013), Chasing Manet (59E59 Theater-2009), Meet Me in St. Louis (Irish Repertory Theatre‐2006), From Door to Door (Westside Theatre‐2004), Tea at Five (Promenade Theatre‐2003), One Shot, One Kill (Primary Stages‐2002), Golden Child (Joseph Papp Public Theater‐1996), Coastal Disturbances (McGinn‐Cazale Theatre‐1986), Fighting International Fat (Playwrights Horizons‐1985), Diamonds (Circle in the Square Downtown‐1984), Messiah (New York City Center‐1984), Summer (New York City Center‐1983), Talking With (New York City Center‐1982), No End of Blame (Stage 73‐1981), Vikings (Stage 73‐1980), Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein (Circle Theatre‐1979), Don Juan Comes Back from the War (Stage 73‐1979), and Glance of a Landscape (Playwrights Horizons‐1975).

Mr. Straiges has designed for many regional theatres across the country, including: Alley Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, American Repertory Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Guthrie Theatre, McCarter Theatre, and the San Francisco Opera Summer Workshop. He spent many seasons designing at Yale Repertory Theatre (1974–77, 1978–79, and 1981–82). From 1976‐1981, he designed countless productions at Arena Stage in Washington, DC (The Winter's Tale‐1979 and Women and Water‐1985). Tony has also worked many times at Hartford Stage (The Glass Menagerie, Rough Crossing, Long Day's Journey into Night, A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas, and The Great Magoo.) He also designs sets for ballet companies.

Paloma Young (TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award) won a Tony Award for her costumes for Peter and the Starcatcher. This season her costumes can be seen on Broadway in Bandstand and Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. Her Off Broadway credits include: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Kazino (Lucille Lortel Award, Drama Desk Nomination); The Patron Saint of Sea Monsters, Fly by Night at Playwrights Horizons; Wildflower at Second Stage Uptown; Recall at Colt Coeur; Permission at MCC; Here's Hoover! at Les Freres Corbusier. Regional: The Bandstand at Paper Mill Playhouse; The Tempest (magic by Teller, music by Tom Waits) at RT/Smith Center Las Vegas; Troublemaker, or the Freakin Kick-A Adventures of Bradley Boatright and You, Nero at Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Hoover Comes Alive! and A Current Nobody at La Jolla Playhouse. Ms. Young has also worked regionally at Dallas Theatre Center, Arena Stage, Williamstown Theatre Festival, South Coast Repertory, The Old Globe, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, California Shakespeare Theatre, Hand2Mouth and Mixed Blood among others. MFA UC San Diego. Website: palomayoung.com 

Ernest Smith (TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award) is president of the embroidery company, Penn & Fletcher, where he has supervised the detailed art of embroidery for countless productions on both the stage and the screen. Despite his relationship with embroidery, Mr. Smith actually began his career in the world of theatre design. He assisted many New York designers—Charles Elson, Patton Campbell, David Hays—and would himself go on to design scenery, costumes, and lighting. When he eventually tired of designing, Smith settled in Long Island City and, with fellow designer Andrew B. Marlay, established Penn & Fletcher in 1986.

Penn & Fletcher was largely formed from the remnants of older embroidery studios and, because of this, maintains some equipment dating back to the 19th century. This celebration of embroidery heritage does not, however, slow the company down. Indeed, Penn & Fletcher has handled such grand‐scale projects as the curtain at the restored Seattle Opera House and the curtains for Bally’s Las Vegas. The simple truth is that there are very few productions that have not walked through the company’s door—its Broadway credits, for instance, include The Will Rogers Follies, Victor/Victoria, and Aladdin. One project that Smith is particularly proud of is the work done on Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 film Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Smith’s aim is simple: to realize a designer’s vision with unique embroidery through color, texture, and line. Website: pennandfletcher.com

Motley (Margaret Harris, Sophie Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot) (Memorial Tribute) was the name of the theatre design firm made up of three English designers, sisters Margaret Harris (known as "Percy") (1904–2000) and Sophie Harris (1900–1966), and Elizabeth Montgomery Wilmot (1902–1993). The name derives from the word 'Motley' as used by Shakespeare. The group won Tony Awards for costume design for The First Gentleman (1957) and Becket (1961) and was nominated seven additional times: The Country Wife (1957), Shinbone Alley (1957), Look Back in Anger (1957), Kwamina (1961), Mother Courage and Her Children (1963) and Baker Street (1965).

They met at art school in the 1920s and became John Gielgud's designers during the 1930’s. They started teaching theatre design at Michel Saint-Denis's London Theatre Studio (1936–1939), the first time a design course had been incorporated into a drama school in the UK. Margaret Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery spent World War II in the United States, designing for Broadway, and Harris also worked with Charles Eames on his molded plywood airplane parts. Sophie Harris stayed in the UK designing for stage and screen. After the war Margaret Harris returned to the UK, and both sisters once again joined Saint-Denis, teaching design at the Old Vic Theatre School (1947–1953). Elizabeth Montgomery stayed in the United States designing for many Broadway productions. All three continued to design under the name "Motley" for both stage and screen.

The Motley design team were closely associated with the work of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre especially 1948-59. Productions included: Troilus and Cressida (1948) in which Paul Scofield played Troilus, Antony and Cleopatra (1953) and As You Like It (1957) both featuring Peggy Ashcroft, The Merry Wives of Windsor (1955) with Anthony Quayle, Hamlet (1958) with Michael Redgrave in the title role and King Lear (1959) with Charles Laughton. In 1966, Margaret Harris founded Motley Theatre Design Course which continues today under the directorship of designer Alison Chitty (OBE)

TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards Voting Committee:

The awardees were selected by the TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards Voting Committee, which is comprised of leading members of the theatrical costume design community. They are: Stephen Cabral, Chair; Gregg Barnes, Suzy Benzinger, Dean Brown, Traci DiGesu, Linda Fisher, Lana Fritz, Rodney Gordon, Allen Lee Hughes, Holly Hynes, Carolyn Kostopoulos, Anna Louizos, Mimi Maxmen, David Murin, Sally Ann Parsons, Robert Perdziola, Gregory Poplyk, Carrie Robbins, Tony Walton, Patrick Wiley and David Zinn.

Throughout her long and distinguished career, elegance and an attention to detail were the trademarks of costume designer Irene Sharaff. Miss Sharaff was revered as a designer of enormous depth and intelligence, equally secure with both contemporary and period costumes. Her work exemplified the best of costume design. Such excellence is demonstrated by the winners of the 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff awardees.