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2008 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards Announced. Ceremony to take place on March 28 at the Hudson Theatre.

By: Click "Download PDF" below for photos of awardees.
Date: Jan 28, 2008
Press Release


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Legendary designers JOHN CONKLIN and ROBERT FLETCHER are among the recipients of the 2008 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards. For his achievements as both a costume and set designer, John Conklin will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards’ special Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design. Acclaimed costume designer Robert Fletcher, who also produced, performed and designed sets, will receive the 2008 TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony on Friday, March 28, at the Hudson Theatre in New York City.

In addition to Mr. Conklin’s Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design and Mr. Fletcher’s TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award, costume designer FABIO TOBLINI will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award; famed theatre craftsperson/designer BESSIE NELSON will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award; and TANYA MOISEIWITSCH, the famed theatre, set and costume designer, will be named the winner of the TDF/Irene Sharaff Memorial Tribute Award.
Costume designer SUSAN HILFERTY will present the award to Mr. Conklin, designer APRIL FERRY will present to Mr. Fletcher, Xanadu star KERRY BUTLER will present Mr. Toblini his award and Euro Co. Costumes’ WERNER KULOWITZ will present to Ms. Nelson.

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 2008 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards, who were selected by the TDF Costume Collection's Advisory Committee. The TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards are presented through Theatre Development Fund's Costume Collection.

JOHN CONKLIN’s (Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design) first Broadway production was as scenic and costume designer for Tambourines to Glory (1963). Other Broadway credits include scenic design for The Au Pair Man (1973), Lorelei (1974), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1974), costume and scenic design for Rex (1976) and The Bacchae (1980), scenic design for The Philadelphia Story (1980), Awake and Sing! (1984) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1988). He was nominated for: a 1974 Tony Award for Best Scenic Design for The Au Pair Man, a 1975 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design for the 1992 production of 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. At the American Repertory Theatre, Mr. Conklin has designed costumes for Robert Wilson’s Alcestis (1985), sets and costumes for Sweet Table at the Richelieu (1986), sets and costumes for Robert Wilson’s production of When We Dead Awaken (1990), sets for Henry IV (Parts 1&2) (1993), sets for Henry V (1994) and sets for The Tempest (1995).

John Conklin made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1985 when he designed the costumes for Khovanshchina. Other Met credits: scenic design for Semiramide (1990), sets and costumes for The Ghosts of Versailles (1991) and sets for Lucia di Lammermoor (1992), I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata (1993), Pelléas et Mélisande (1995), Norma (2001) and Il Pirata (2002). Mr. Conklin’s extensive Glimmerglass Opera credits include: scenic design for Lizzie Borden (co-produced with New York City Opera - 1996), sets for Of Mice and Men (co-produced with New York City Opera - 1997), set design for Abduction from the Seraglio (1999), set design for Agrippina (2001), set design for Bluebeard (2003), set and costumes for The Good Soldier Schweik (2003), costumes for The Mines of Sulphur (2004) and set design for La Fanciulla del West (2004).

His designs are seen in opera houses, ballet companies and theatres all over the world, with designs for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Seattle Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, The Dallas Opera, Bastille Opera in Paris, the Boston Ballet, Louisville Ballet, the Guthrie Theater, Arena Stage, the Kennedy Center and the Goodman Theatre, among many others. Mr. Conklin has designed many world premieres in his career, including the 1988 world premiere of Argento’s The Aspern Papers with The Dallas Opera and the world premiere of The Ghosts of Versailles at the Metropolitan Opera (1991). In 1989, he was the United States Institute for Theatre Technology Award Recipient in Scenic Design, and after the 2008 season, John Conklin will retire from Glimmerglass Opera, where he served as Associate Artistic Director for 18 years.

ROBERT FLETCHER (TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award) appeared on Broadway as an actor before concentrating his talents on designing sets and costumes. His first Broadway credit as a designer came in 1951 when he designed the costumes for The Little Blue Light with Melvyn Douglas, Arlene Francis, Martin Gabel and Burgess Meredith. His other credits are as costume designer on Misalliance (1953), Saint Joan (1956), The Firstborn (1958), sets and costumes for Farewell, Farewell Eugene with Mildred Dunnock (1960), costumes for The Happiest Girl in the World (1961), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1961), A Family Affair (1962), Nowhere to Go But Up (1962), Little Me with Sid Caesar (1962), The Moon Besieged (1962), Foxy (1964), scenic and costume design for High Spirits with Tammy Grimes and Beatrice Lillie (1964, which he also produced), costumes for Walking Happy (1966), sets and costumes for Hadrian VII (1969), costume supervision on Borstal Boy (1970), costume design for Cry for Us All (1970), costumes for Johnny Johnson (1971), which he also produced, sets and costumes for A Life (1980), costumes for Othello with James Earl Jones and Christopher Plummer (1982), costumes for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982), set and costume design for The Flying Karamazov Brothers (1983) and Doubles (1985).

Mr. Fletcher’s three Tony Award nominations were for Little Me in 1963, High Spirits (1964) and Hadrian VII (1969). He also received a Drama Desk Award Nomination for Outstanding Costume Design for Othello in 1982.

Serving as an NBC-TV staff designer in the late 1950’s for several years enabled him to flex his mastery of the craft in painstaking productions of Dialogues of the Carmelites, Rigoletto and Tosca with Leontyne Price in 1955. His versatility served him well at NBC, where he also designed TV variety shows, including “The Perry Como Show”, “The Bell Telephone Hour”, “The Mary Martin Special”, “The Steve Allen Show” and “The Dean Martin Show”. In 1986, he designed costumes for the miniseries “North and South II”, for which he earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Costume Design for a Miniseries or a Special. His film career, which began in the early 70’s, is perhaps best known for his designs for Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986). In addition to his Star Trek work, Robert Fletcher designed costumes for the films Caveman (1981), The Last Starfighter (1984) and Fright Night (1985). The Costume Designers Guild honored him with a Career Achievement Award in 2005.  
FABIO TOBLINI (TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award) is an NYC-based designer whose work includes plays, musicals, opera and styling. Fabio was born and raised in Verona, Italy. He studied fashion design in Milan and moved to New York City in 1991. His Broadway credits include: Assistant to Costume Designer Martin Pakledinaz on A Grand Night for Singing (1993), Assistant to Costume Designer Ann Hould-Ward on Beauty and the Beast (1994), Assistant Costume Designer to Catherine Zuber on Triumph of Love (1997) and Assistant Scenic Designer to Heidi Ettinger on The Sound of Music (1998). On his own, he designed the musicals:  The Ministry of Progress (World Premiere at Jane Street Theatre, NYC 2004); Fame (USA National Tour 2003); The Game (World Premiere at Barrington Stage 2003); Bat Boy: The Musical (Lucille Lortel Nomination for World Premiere at Union Square Theatre, NYC 2001); Godspell (USA National Tour 2000); Man of La Mancha (Goodspeed Musicals 2000) and Hedwig and the Angry Inch (World Premiere at Jane Street Theatre, NYC 1998).

He has designed the operas: Macbeth (Portland Opera Company - 2006); L’Opera Seria (Nationale Reisopera, The Hague, Holland - 2005); Beatrice et Benedict (Manhattan School of Music, NYC - 2003); Les Malheurs D'Orphee (Gotham Chamber Opera, NYC - 2002); Dido and Aeneas (Gotham Chamber Opera, NYC - 2002); L'Histoire du Soldat & Priboutki (EOS Orchestra, NYC - 2001); Il Sogno di Scipione (Gotham Chamber Opera, NYC - 2001); Lucrezia Borgia (Caramoor Centre for the Arts, Katonah, NY - 1998); The Magic Flute (Juilliard School, NYC - 1997); La Cenerentola (Caramoor Centre for the Arts, Katonah, NY - 1997) and Tamerlano (Manhattan School of Music, NYC - 1997).

BESSIE NELSON (TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award) has enjoyed a career spanning over sixty years, and she is regarded as one of the premier beading designers in the country. She was nine years old when her interest in beadwork design began. By age 14, she perfected her skill and became known as the “best little beader” in the city. By 1951, she opened her own studio in New Jersey. It was throughout these years that beadwork design became her lifelong passion. 
In 1972, Bessie moved to California. There she worked in Hollywood with Nolan Miller on costumes for television’s “Dynasty”. Her work for television also included shows such as “The Carol Burnett Show” and “The Sonny and Cher Show” in collaboration with Bob Mackie, and she was involved in many other celebrity specials. Bessie’s remarkable career continued to take flight as a bead designer, and in 1976, she and her co-worker, Stella Ruata, joined forces and established Artistic Hand Beading on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. From its inception, they were highly successful.  Word spread among famous costume designers such as the great Galanos, Bob Mackie, the late Bill Whitten and Jean Louis. Each collaborated with Bessie and her partner, who together created designs for Neil Diamond, Liberace, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross and others. Artistic Hand Beading was so well regarded in Hollywood that they received first option to bid on many productions. One of the most famous was The Jackson Five Victory Tour, featuring Michael Jackson. They also became well known for their work on Michael Jackson’s famous white crystal glove and socks and all his beaded jackets. They were recognized as “the women behind the glove.”

After her husband died, she moved back to NYC and opened Bessie Nelson Beading. Bessie has collaborated with New York costume designers, including William Ivey Long, Suzy Benzinger, Anthony Powell, Martin Pakledinaz, Gregg Barnes, Ann Roth and Scott Traugott.  She worked closely with these famous designers and did the beadwork on Broadway for shows such as The Producers, Sunset Boulevard, The Drowsy Chaperone, Spamalot, Miss Saigon, Wicked, The Boy From Oz, Guys and Dolls, Crazy For You, Beauty and the Beast and many more.  Bessie’s beading appeared in motion pictures, including My Best Friend's Wedding for Julia Roberts, the remakes of The Pink Panther for Beyoncé, The Stepford Wives for Bette Midler, Nicole Kidman and Glenn Close, and Sabrina for Julia Ormond. Her quality beadwork was worn by many of the entertainment industry’s top performers, including Liza Minnelli, Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine and Rita Moreno.

TANYA MOISEIWITSCH (TDF/Irene Memorial Tribute Award) was a British-born theatre, scenic and costume designer. She was the founding designer of Canada’s Stratford Festival. Although she designed over 40 productions at the Festival, she is perhaps best known for designing the Festival Theatre’s thrust stage.

She attended the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London and apprenticed in scene painting at the Old Vic. Her first production in London was The Faithful in 1934. She then worked at the Westminster Theatre, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and the Duchess Theatre in London’s West End. Around this time she had her first collaboration with the future Stratford Festival’s founding artistic director, Tyrone Guthrie, in 1945 at the Old Vic in Liverpool. It would be eight years later when Guthrie would ask her to design a stage for the Stratford Festival upon accepting the directorship in 1953. Her design was revolutionary, because it was the first thrust stage built in the Western theatre since Shakespeare’s time. Later, Ms. Moiseiwitsch designed variations on this stage for the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis and the Crucible Theatre in England. She served as the principal designer at the Guthrie from 1963-69, as well as the consultant designer at the Crucible and associate designer laureate at Stratford. In addition to this work, she also designed for the Royal Shakespeare Company, the National Theatre in England, the Old Vic, the Royal Opera at Convent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, the Abbey Theatre and various productions in London’s West End.

During her career in London, she had as many as five productions running at the same time. Her first production on Broadway, for which she served as both scenic and costume designer, was Uncle Vanya (1946). Her other Broadway credits: scenic and costume designs for The Critic (1946), The Matchmaker (1955) and scenic design for The House of Atreus (1968). But it was her work on the 1975 production of The Misanthrope that garnered her Tony Award nominations for both scenic and costume design. In addition, she is credited for the 2004 revival of King Lear, in which the scenery was based on her designs for Stratford (Ontario). She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1967 as the designer for Peter Grimes. Tanya Moiseiwitsch died in London in February 2003 at the age of 88. She was posthumously awarded an honorary Officer of the Order of Canada for her "enormous impact on theatre arts in the 20th century".

The awardees were selected by the TDF/Costume Collection's Advisory Committee, which is comprised of leading members of the theatrical costume design community. They are: Gregg Barnes, Suzy Benzinger, Linda Fisher, Lana Fritz, Rodney Gordon, Desmond Heeley, Holly Hynes, Willa Kim, Carolyn Kostopoulous, Kitty Leech, Mimi Maxmen, David Murin, Sally Ann Parsons, Robert Perdziola, Carrie Robbins, Tony Walton, Patrick Wiley and David Zinn.


The TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award, first presented to the legendary Miss 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 lifework 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 Irene Sharaff, from all of them together.

Previous winners of the TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award are: Desmond Heeley (1994), Miles White (1995), Alvin Colt (1996), Patricia Zipprodt (1997), Jane Greenwood (1998), Willa Kim (1999), Ann Roth (2000), Freddy Wittop (2001), Theoni V. Aldredge (2002), Jose Varona (2003), Anthony Powell (2004), Florence Klotz (2005), Lester Polakov (2006) and Bob Mackie (2007).
The Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design 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 Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design was first presented in 2004 to acclaimed set and costume designer Tony Walton. The award was presented in 2005 to Robert O'Hearn, to Franco Zeffirelli in 2006 and to Santo Loquasto in 2007.

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award is presented to a designer whose work, beyond being promising, has come to fruition. The award, honoring a designer of distinction early in his or her career, is given in recognition of Irene Sharaff's wish to see young designers encouraged on their way to fully acknowledged success and excellence in the field.

The TDF Irene Sharaff Young Master Award has been bestowed upon: Gregg Barnes (1994), Toni-Leslie James (1996), Paul Tazewell (1997), Martin Pakledinaz (1998), Suzy Benzinger (1999), Robert Perdziola (2000), Constance Hoffman (2001), Gregory Gale and Jonathan Bixby (2002), Anita Yavich (2003), Mirena Rada (2004), David Zinn (2005), Emilio Sosa (2006) and Murell Horton (2007).

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award, which was created in 1999, 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 designers could not function. 
The TDF/Irene Sharaff Memorial Tribute, also created in 1999, recognizes, celebrates and remembers those artists who pioneered the art of costume design, setting the standard for years to come. TDF believes that in reliving and reviewing the body of work of these artists, a new generation of designers is able to learn and grow, standing on the shoulders of the giants who went before them. 
TDF Irene Sharaff Artisan Awards have been previously awarded to: Ray Diffen (1999), Woody Shelp (2000), Barbara Matera (2001), Paul Huntley (2002), Maria Brizzi/Grace Costumes (2003), Nino Novellino (2004), Vincent Zullo (2005), Martin Izquierdo (2006) and Kermit Love (2007); and the Memorial Tribute Award to Raoul Pene DuBois (1999), Lucinda Ballard (2000), Aline Bernstein (2001), Cecil Beaton (2002), Ruth Morley (2003), Lemuel Ayers (2004), Oliver Messel (2005), Lila De Nobili (2006) and Rouben Ter-Arutunian (2007). 
THE TDF COSTUME COLLECTION maintains an extensive inventory of more than 65,000 costumes and accessories for rental at discounted prices by any not-for-profit theatre company, opera company, university, high school, church group, etc. The Collection currently serves organizations that produce over 900 productions per year in 32 states across the country. The Collection is located at the Kaufman Astoria Studios, 34-12 36th Street, Lower Level - Suite 1, Astoria, NY 11106. It stocks all periods and accepts donations from productions, institutions and individuals. These donations are tax-exempt to the degree allowed by law. 
THE TOBIN THEATRE ARTS FUND was founded by the late Robert L.B. Tobin, who was heir to one of the largest family fortunes in Texas.  Robert Tobin admitted to being a frustrated theatre designer with a need to be creative. All through his academic years and early adulthood, he collected rare theatrical volumes, etchings, engravings and drawings. At the time of his 50th birthday in 1984, the Tobin Wing of the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas, was constructed specifically to provide a museum setting for the theatre arts. As such, the wing houses Robert Tobin's extensive collection of over 20,000 original models, scenic and costume designs, as well as some 8,000 rare and illustrated books. This unprecedented collection of preliminary sketches, final renderings, maquettes, engravings and illustrated texts provides a visual history of theatre art from the Renaissance to the present.
THE TOBIN THEATRE ARTS FUND exists to stimulate public interest in the art of the theatre designer through a far-reaching program of exhibitions, lectures and expansion of the collection at the McNay as well as to provide broad-based access to this collection. In its continuing effort to promote the art of the designer, the Fund also sponsors programs that offer students an opportunity to exhibit their work. It also funds visiting artists' programs to area colleges and universities, and assists in the publication of monographs on individual designers.

THEATRE DEVELOPMENT FUND, the largest not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts in the United States, was established in 1968 to foster works of artistic merit by supporting new productions and to broaden the audience for all the performing arts. Since then, TDF has played a unique role in strengthening New York City’s performing arts. TDF’s combined programs have filled over 70 million theatre seats; provided subsidy support to over 800 plays, including 29 Pulitzer Prize honorees; and returned over a billion dollars in revenue to theatre, dance and music organizations. TDF’s TKTS ticket booth, known the world over for its same day discount tickets is currently operating at a temporary location outside the NY Marriott Marquis during the construction of a new booth and revitalization of Father Duffy Square.  The new booth is scheduled to open this spring. Additionally, TDF’s membership and voucher programs touch the lives of thousands of New Yorkers who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the unique experience of theatre. TDF also presents highly regarded open-captioned and sign language interpreted performances for theatregoers with mild to severe hearing loss, sponsors comprehensive training courses for future producers and maintains a 65,000 item Costume Collection.

This year's TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards Ceremony is being generously underwritten by The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund.

Click "Download PDF" below for photos of awardees.