Awardees Susan Tsu, Liz Covey, Michael Yeargan, Suttirat Larlarb
Awardees Susan Tsu, Liz Covey, Michael Yeargan, Suttirat Larlarb

NEW YORK CITY |   Design education and mentorship — those vital components of stage expertise were the binding ties that overrode this theatrical season’s choices for the TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award ceremony.

Scenic and costume design Michael Yeargan (currently represented on Broadway with Fiddler on the Roof and The King and I) remains the co-chair of the Design Department of the Yale School of Drama.

Costume designer Susan Tsu, who designed costumes for the original Broadway production of Godspell, is currently a professor of Costume Design at Carnegie Mellon University. She has designed costumes for theatre, opera and television for over 40 years.

On May 20, Yeargan and Tsu took home their individual 2016 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards, which were handed out at a crowded ceremony at the Edison Ballroom in the Broadway district. The awards are annually presented through Theatre Development Fund’s Costume Collection.

2016 TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award
Costume designer Susan Tsu takes home a lifetime achievement award.
Costume designer Susan Tsu takes home a lifetime achievement award.

Susan Tsu was selected to receive the 2016 TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award for costume design (presented by Edward Stern of Cincinnati Playhouse).

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award, first presented to the Sharaff in 1993, is bestowed upon a costume designer who, over the course of his or her career, has achieved great distinction and demonstrated a mastery of the art.

The award is presented to a designer whose work embodies those qualities of excellence represented in the life work of Irene Sharaff: a keen sense of color, a feeling for material and texture, an eye for shape and form, and a sure command of the craft. Such a designer’s achievement may stem from work for the theatre, opera, dance or film or, as was true of Sharaff, from all of them together.

Allow me to testify as to why Tsu deserves the award. Tsu and I collaborated on the execution of From the Edge, the 2011 USA National Design Exhibition, which represented our country at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in the Czech Republic. She was our artistic director. She gave us our vision. She was our passionate ambassador within design-and art-world environments.

Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design
Mel Weingart, Michael Yeargan, Bartlett Sher
Mel Weingart, Michael Yeargan, Bartlett Sher

Yeargan received the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design (presented by Bartlett Sher. “The recipient of this award,” said a prepared statement, “has achieved a career so distinguished in theatrical design that his or her work becomes an example to all designers of the beauty, feeling and empathy that a designer creates through true mastery of this art.

This award not only honors the name of Robert Tobin, but also symbolizes his passion, respect and esteem for the art of theatrical design. The recipient of this award has achieved a career so distinguished in theatrical design that his or her work becomes an example to all designers of the beauty, feeling and empathy that a designer creates through true mastery of this art.

The award is presented to a designer whose work embodies those qualities of excellence represented in the life work of Irene Sharaff: a keen sense of color, a feeling for material and texture, an eye for shape and form, and a sure command of the craft. Such a designer’s achievement may stem from work for the theatre, opera, dance or film or, as was true of Sharaff, from all of them together.

Who were the other recipients?
Suttirat Larlarb, Michael Yeargan,
Suttirat Larlarb, Michael Yeargan and Stephen Cabral.

“As we reviewed the list of awardees, the committee realized that in addition to their personal artistry, there was another common denominator,” said Stephen Cabral, Director of TDF’s Costume Collection which curates the awards, and Chair of the TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards Voting Committee. “They all were currently teaching or had taught their craft at prestigious universities – doing the service of paying it forward to the next generation of designers. That’s what makes these awardees so special.”

Additionally, costume designer Suttirat Larlarb (currently represented on Broadway with Waitress and Finding Neverland) nabbed the TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award (presented by Scott Pask). It is presented to a designer whose work, beyond being promising, has come to fruition. The award also honors a designer of distinction early in his or her career.

Authors and designers Liz Covery and the late Rosemary Ingham received the TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award. It recognizes an individual or company that has made an outstanding supportive contribution in the field of costume technology. Among those whom this award honors are assistant and associate costume designers, costume shops that take sketches and turn them into glorious and breathtaking realities, teachers who dedicate their lives to turning raw talent into professional accomplished designers, and authors who create the texts and trade publications without which a designer could not function.

During the ceremony — as a special memorial tribute to legendary costume and scenic designer Dorothy Jeakins — there was a curious screening of an original 15-minute film on her life, created by designer Suzy Benzinger. The TDF/Irene Sharaff Memorial Tribute was created to recognize, celebrate and remember those artists who have pioneered the art of costume design, setting the standard for years to come.

Who was Irene Sharaff, the legend whose name graces this prestigious award?

She was a Broadway costume designer. Throughout her long and distinguished career, elegance and an attention to detail were the trademarks of Sharaff. She was justly 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 2016 TDF/Irene Sharaff awardees. — rg

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