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The 2020 Henry Hewes Design Awards Honorees

Stage Directions • Industry NewsTheatre Buzz • October 14, 2020

The Henry Hewes Design Awards ceremony will take place this fallThe 2020 Henry Hewes Design Award Honors, recognizing design creativity on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and Off-Off-Broadway for the 2019–2020 season, were celebrated at a virtual ceremony October 14 via Zoom by the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and Illinois Theatre at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We at Stage Directions magazine send our congratulations to all the honorees and nominees.

“During this extremely challenging moment in history, when longstanding concerns of equity and justice have intersected with a deadly pandemic and its attendant loss of jobs in the theatre, the Henry Hewes Design Awards committee and the Hewes Foundation are especially grateful to be able to honor excellence in New York theatre design for the 56th year,” said Committee Chair Jeffrey Eric Jenkins in an earlier statement.

This year’s awards include two new categories—Sound Design and Media Design.

For the 2020 honors, 95 designers were nominated for outstanding artistry in 61 productions presented during the 2019–2020 New York theatre season.

This year’s honorees include Scenic Designer Paul Steinberg for Judgment Day, Park Avenue Armory; Costume Designer Anita Yavich for Soft Power, Public Theater; Lighting Designer Isabella Byrd for Heroes of the Fourth Turning, Playwrights Horizons; Sound Designer Justin Ellington for Heroes of the Fourth Turning, Playwrights Horizons; Media Designer Hannah Wasileski for Fires in the Mirror, Signature Theatre; and Hair and Wig Designer Nikiya Mathis for Stew, Page 73 at Walkerspace. Five of the six honorees are receiving their first award from the committee.

Lighting Designer, Allen Lee Hughes was the recipient of the 2020 Ming Cho Lee Lifetime Achievement Award from the Henry Hewes Design Awards

Lighting Designer Allen Lee Hughes was also honored with the Henry Hewes Design Awards’ Ming Cho Lee Lifetime Achievement Award. Hughes’ most recent work was seen in the Roundabout Theatre Company revival of A Soldier’s Play. He is a three-time Tony nominee, for his work on the original Broadway productions of K2 and Once on This Island as well as the 1985 revival of Strange Interlude.

“It is especially gratifying to honor Allen Lee Hughes, whose nearly five decades of work in lighting design demonstrates the power of light and shadow to strengthen the dramaturgical core of every production on which he works,” said Jeffrey Eric Jenkins, chair of the Henry Hewes Design Awards Committee. “We have only to think of last season’s production of Charles Fuller’s A Soldier’s Play, among many others, to recall how his design added meticulous detail that was understated but powerful while driven always by the demands of the text. In production after production, in dance and theater, on Broadway and off, and all around the United States he has lit a path for the next generation of designers as a professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and through the Fellowship at Arena Stage in Washington, DC, that bears his name. The Henry Hewes Design Awards committee is delighted to celebrate the career and accomplishments of Allen Lee Hughes.”

Hughes is only the third recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Henry Hewes Design Awards. The first recipient, and for whom the award was subsequently named, was the iconic theatre designer Ming Cho Lee in 2018. The renowned costume designer Jane Greenwood received the newly named Ming Cho Lee Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2019.

The committee also awarded a special citation to the design team for María Irene Fornés’ Fefu and Her Friends for their collaborative work: Adam Rigg, Scenic Design; Montana Levi Blanco, Costume Design; Jane Cox, Lighting Design; Palmer Hefferan, Sound Design; Cookie Jordan, Hair and Wig Design; and Andrew Diaz, Properties Design. Theatre for a New Audience’s production opened in November 2019 at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn directed by Obie Award winner Lileana Blain-Cruz.

Amanda Villalobos and David Zinn led all designers with three nominations each for their work. Twelve other designers received two nominations each. Twenty-four productions received multiple nominations, with Fefu and Her Friends getting five.


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