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2014 Merritt Awards honors two costume designers
Just call them designing women. Susan E. Mickey and Izumi Inaba, two highly accomplished costume designers whose work has graced the stages of many theaters in Chicago and beyond, have been named the recipients of the top prizes in the 21st annual Merritt Awards that honor the memory of Michael Merritt, a much-acclaimed Chicago designer and teacher.
Presented annually since 1994 to outstanding professional theatrical designers who also have demonstrated a talent for collaboration, the Merritt Awards, which have an endowment fund, also recognize and encourage the work of both young professionals and students, and stages a National Design Exposition that presents prizes to promising theatrical design students.
The 2014 awards event (open to the public with ticket $20, or $5 for students) will be held April 21, from 4:30-9:30 p.m., at the handsome new home of The Theatre School at DePaul University, 2400 N. Sheffield in Lincoln Park. Four academic prize recipients, plus a new annual award honoring a backstage technician, also will be presented. Tickets can be booked online at merrittawards.com. Food, wine and beer are included in the ticket price, with funds going to support the awards endowment fund.
Susan E. Mickey is this year’s winner of the Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration. She created the 1940s era costumes for “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and has received Jeff Awards for “School for Lies” and “The Madness of George III,” all at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The designer, who works in theater, film and television, created her first professional costume design for a 1979 production of “Cymbeline” for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and has since created costumes for productions at almost every major regional theater in the United States. She has collaborated on more than 35 world premieres with teams as diverse as director Kenny Leon and writer Pearl Cleage; Stephen King, John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett (on a a new musical about family secrets and violence), and Jimmy Buffet and Herman Wouk on a new musical about a crazy hotel in the Caribbean.
Along with extended design relationships with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the Huntington Theatre in Boston and Chicago Shakespeare, Mickey has collaborated with the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, designing 58 productions over the course of 30 years. She is the author of several books on sewing and home décor. And since 2004 she has been a part of the design faculty at The University of Texas where she is the Senior Associate Chair and the Head of the Production Division.
Inaba is the recipient of the Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award, which comes with a $2000 honorarium. Born and raised in Japan, she came to the United States at the age of 18 to study the performing arts. She double-majored in dance and theater design at the State University of New York, Buffalo. Upon graduation she moved to Chicago to attend the MFA program at Northwestern University, focusing on costume and scenic design. After completing that program in 2009, Inaba began working as a freelance costume/makeup designer in Chicago.
Inaba joined Red Tape Theatre as an ensemble member in 2012, where she has designed “Skriker,” “Elephant’s Graveyard,” “Lear,” “Madam Barker” and “Hamlet is Dead.” She also has designed costumes for Griffin Theatre (“Stage Door” “Spring Awakening,” “Burnt Part Boys,” “Flare Path,” and “Putnam County Spelling Bee”); Chicago Dramatists; A Red Orchid; The Gift; The Music Theatre Company; The Hypocrites; Lifeline; Strawdog (“Miss Marx”), Albany Park Theatre Project (“I Will Kiss These Walls,” and “God’s Work 2014,” currently running at the Goodman Theatre), Steep Theatre; Porchlight Music Theater, The Building Stage; Mary-Arrchie; Two Shakespeare; Sideshow; TUTA (the “The Jewels,” currently running at The Storefront Theatre), Raven Theatre (the currently running “Good Boys and True”), and Buzz22 (“Ghost Bike”). Her makeup designs appeared in productions of Theo Ubique Cabaret (“Cats,” for which she won a Non-Equity Jeff Award for Artistic Specialization), and Chicago Dramatists. She also has served as a staff costume designer at the National High School Institute for the past 7 years.
Four academic prizes of $2000 each will be given to design students in four major Chicago area theater departments, including:
± The John Murbach Columbia College Chicago Prize to Moriah Lee Turner (a senior BFA Theater Design (Costume Design) major).
± The Theatre School at DePaul University Prize to Greg Pinsoneault (a third year BFA Scenic Design major at The Theatre School at DePaul University).
± The Loyola University Chicago Prize to Bridgid Danahy (about to finish her final year at Loyola University, where she studies Theatre and Advertising/Public Relations and has designed costumes for multiple shows).
± The Northwestern University Prize to Carolyn Sullivan (a costume design MFA candidate finishing her third and final year of Northwestern University’s program for Stage Design).
The $500 Michael Philippi Prize for Best Exhibit by a professional designer also will be presented, as weill a $500 prize for Best Exhibit by a student designer.
Following is the schedule for the Merritt Awards event:
± THEATER DESIGN EXPOSITION (4:30-6:30 p.m.): Showcasing the works of Chicago-area emerging theatrical designers and graduating design students from Chicago’s best theatrical design programs, this exhibition is attended by many of Chicago’s artistic directors, production managers, and industry professionals.
± DIALOGUE WITH THE DESIGNERS (6:30-7:30 p.m.): A discussion (which I will moderate) featuring the award recipients in an exploration of current issues of interest to professional and student designers.
± AWARDS PRESENTATION AND CELEBRATION (8:00-8:45 p.m.): Presentation of The Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award,the four academic prize recipients, the prizes for Best Exhibit and The Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration, as well as this year’s new (annual) award honoring a backstage technician.
± Food, wine, beer and fellowship until 9:30 p.m.