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2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awardees announced - Catherine Zuber (Lifetime Achievement Award); Tony Straiges (Robert L.B. Tobin Award); Paloma Young (Kitty Leech Young Master Award); Ernest Smith (Artisan Award) - with memorial tribute to Motley

Date: Feb 22, 2017
Press Release


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Six-time Tony Award-winning costume designer CATHERINE ZUBER and legendary scenic designer TONY STRAIGES are among the 2017 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards recipients which were just announced by Theatre Development Fund (TDF), a not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts. The awards will be presented at a ceremony on Friday, April 28, at 6:30pm, at the Edison Ballroom (240 West 47th Street).  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. The awards are presented through Theatre Development Fund’s Costume Collection.
Additionally, costume designer PALOMA YOUNG (represented on Broadway this season with Bandstand and Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812) will receive the TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award (formerly the TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award, now re-named in honor of the late designer Kitty Leech who passed away last year), and ERNEST YOUNG (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.

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.
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.

Other nominations include: Death Takes a Holiday (2012 Lucille Lortel Award, Drama Desk Award, and Henry Hewes Award); Far Away (2003 Lucille Lortel Award); The Light in the Piazza (2005 Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award), Far from Heaven (2014 Lucille Lortel Award and Henry Hewes Award); Intimate Apparel (2004 Outer Critics Circle Award); The House in Town (2007 Henry Hewes Award); Dinner at Eight (2002 Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award); and The Whipping Man (2011 Henry Hewes Award). Ms. Zuber has won awards for her design work, including: Engaged (2005 Obie Award); Far Away (2003 Henry Hewes Award); Intimate Apparel (2005 Lucille Lortel Award and a 2004 Henry Hewes Award); and The Beard of Avon (2004 Lucille Lortel Award). 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:

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.

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)

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 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 Irene Sharaff, from all of them together.
Previous winners of the TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award are: Desmond Heeley (1994), Miles White (1996), 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), Bob Mackie (2007), Robert Fletcher (2008), William Ivey Long (2009), Albert Wolsky (2010), Lewis Brown (2011), Carrie Robbins (2012), David Toser (2013), Deborah M. Dryden (2014), Jess Goldstein (2015) and Susan Tsu (2016).
The Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence 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 has since been presented to Robert O'Hearn (2005), Franco Zeffirelli (2006), Santo Loquasto (2007), John Conklin (2008), Bob Crowley (2009), Ming Cho Lee (2010), Robin Wagner (2011), Lloyd Burlingame (2012), Desmond Heeley (2013), Marjorie Bradley Kellogg (2014), Douglas W. Schmidt (2015) and Michael Yeargan (2016).
The TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award (formerly known as 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. 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), Murrel Horton (2007), Fabio Toblini (2008), Clint  Ramos (2009), Alejo Vietti (2010), Olivera Gajic (2011), Mathew J. LeFebvre (2012), Daniel Lawson (2013), Linda Cho (2014), Brian Hemesath (2015) and Suttirat Larlarb (2016).
The TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award 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.

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), Kermit Love (2007), Bessie Nelson (2008), Sally Ann Parsons (2009), John David Ridge (2010), Michael-Jon Costumes (2011), Lynn Pectal (2012), Lawrence Vrba (2013), Marjorie Krostyne (2014), Gino BiFulco – T.O. Dey Shoes (2015) and Liz Covey & Rosemary Ingham (2016).
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. 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 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), Rouben Ter-Arutunian (2007),Tanya Moiseiwitsch (2008), Irene Sharaff (2009), Randy Barcelo (2010), Charles LeMaire (2011), William and Jean Eckart (2012), Martin Pakledinaz (2013), Sam Kirkpatrick (2014), Raoul Pene DuBois (2015) and Dorothy Jeakins (2016).
THE TDF COSTUME COLLECTION maintains an extensive inventory of more than 80,000 costumes and accessories for rental at discounted price by any not-for-profit theatre company, opera company, university, high school, religious group, etc.  The Collection resides in a 16,000 square foot home at the Kaufman Astoria Studios. This past year, The Collection served organizations that produced over 1,000 productions in 31 states. It stocks all periods and accepts donations from productions, institutions and individuals. These donations are tax-deductible to the degree allowed by law.
THE TOBIN THEATRE ARTS FUND (formerly The Tobin Foundation for Theatre Arts) 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 has underwritten the publication of the book, Making the Scene: A History of Stage Design and Technology in Europe and the United States, co-authored by Dr. Oscar Brockett, Margaret Mitchell and Linda Hardberger. This work is a lively, beautifully illustrated history of theatrical stage design from ancient Greek times 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, expansion of the collection at the McNay and to provide broad-based access to this collection.

THEATRE DEVELOPMENT FUND (TDF), a not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts, was created in the conviction that the live theatrical arts afford a unique expression of the human condition that must be sustained and nurtured. It is dedicated to developing diverse audiences for live theatre and dance and strengthening the performing arts community in New York City. Since 1968, TDF’s programs have provided over 92 million people with access to performances at affordable prices and have returned over $2.7 billion to thousands of productions. Best known for its TKTS Discount Booths, TDF’s membership, outreach, access (including the Autism Theatre Initiative), and education programs—as well as its Costume Collection—have introduced thousands of people to the theatre and helped make the unique experience of theatre available to everyone, including students and people with disabilities. Recent TDF honors include a 2011 Mayor’s Award for Arts and Culture, a 2012 Tony Honor for Excellence for its Open Doors Arts Education Program, a 2012 New York Innovative Theatre Award for its support of the Off-Off Broadway community, a 2013 Lucille Lortel honor for “Outstanding Body of Work” in support of the Off Broadway community, a 2016 “Friend of Off Broadway” honor from The Off Broadway Alliance, and New York City’s 2016 TITLE II ADA Sapolin Public Service Award. For more information, go to

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