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2022 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awardees announced - awards return after pandemic pause

Date: Sep 13, 2022


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, the not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts, is proud to announce that celebrated costume designer FRED VOELPEL and legendary scenic designer EUGENE LEE are among the 2022 TDF/Irene Sharaff Award recipients. Although Mr. Voelpel passed away in June, he will be honored posthumously with the TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award for costume design while Mr. Lee will receive The Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design. The awards ceremony will be presented through the TDF Costume Collection on Friday, October 7 at 6:30 p.m. at The Edison Ballroom (240 West 47th Street). A pre-awards cocktail reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. For ticket information, please call 212-989-5855 ext. 219 or email

Additionally, costume designer DEDE AYITE will receive the TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award and visual artist MICHAEL CURRY will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award.

“These wonderful awardees were originally chosen by the committee for the 2020 awards ceremony. Sadly, the pandemic put that and last year’s ceremony on hold, but we’re thrilled to finally celebrate these incredible artists” said STEPHEN CABRAL, Director of the TDF Costume Collection. “We were very upset to lose Fred Voelpel this past June. I had been in contact with Fred and he was happy to have been chosen for the award and had been looking forward to attending. He will be sorely missed.”

For this year's TDF/Irene Sharaff Memorial Tribute, iconic costume designer CAROLINE F. SIEDLE will be remembered with an original 15-minute film created by designer SUZY BENZINGER.

The awardees were selected by the TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards Voting Committee, which consists 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, Jess Goldstein, Rodney Gordon, Allen Lee Hughes, Holly Hynes, Daniel Lawson, Anna Louizos, Katherine Marshall, Mimi Maxmen, David Murin, Sally Ann Parsons, Scott D. Pask, Robert Perdziola, Gregory Poplyk, Carrie Robbins, Alejo Vietti, Patrick Wiley and David Zinn.

Throughout her long and distinguished career, costume designer IRENE SHARAFF was known for her elegance and attention to detail. Ms. 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 this year's TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards


The TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award was first presented to the legendary Ms. Sharaff in 1993. It is bestowed annually to a costume designer who has achieved great distinction and demonstrated a mastery of the art. The award is presented to a designer whose work embodies the qualities of excellence represented in Ms. Sharaff's lifework: a keen sense of color, a feeling for material and texture, an eye for shape and form, and a sure command of the craft. The awardee's achievement may stem from work for the theatre, opera, dance, film or—as was true of Ms. 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), Susan Tsu (2016), Catherine Zuber (2017), Holly Hynes (2018) and Susan Hilferty (2019).
The Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design honors its namesake and symbolizes Tobin's passion, respect and esteem for the art of theatrical design. Recipients have achieved distinction in theatrical design and their work serves as an example of the beauty, feeling and empathy that's created through true mastery of this art. The Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence 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), Michael Yeargan (2016), Tony Straiges (2017) and Zack Brown (2018) and John Lee Beatty (2019).
The TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award (formerly known as the TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award) is presented to a designer whose promising work has come to fruition. Honoring an early career designer, the award 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/Kitty Leech Young Master Award was previously bestowed upon Gregg Barnes (1994), Toni-Leslie James  (1996), Paul Tazewell (1997), Martin Pakledinaz (1998), Suzy Benzinger (1999), Robert Perdziola (2000), Constance Hoffman (2001), Jonathan Bixby & Gregory Gale (2002), Anita Yavich (2003), Mirena Rada (2004), David Zinn (2005), Emilio Sosa (2006), Murrell 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), Suttirat Anne Larlarb (2016), Paloma Young (2017), Travis Halsey (2018) and Mio Guberinic (2019).
The TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award recognizes an individual or company that has made an outstanding supportive contribution in the field of costume technology. Honorees include assistant and associate costume designers, costume shops that transform sketches into glorious and breathtaking realities, teachers who dedicate their lives to turning raw talent into professional designers, and authors who create essential texts and trade publications without which a designer could not function.

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award was previously given to Ray Diffen (1999), Woody Shelp (2000), Barbara Matera (2001), Paul Huntley (2002), Maria Brizzi/Grace Costumes, Inc. (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 Pecktal (2012), Lawrence Vrba (2013), Marianne Krostyne (2014), Gino Bifulco – T.O. Dey Shoes (2015), Liz Covey & Rosemary Ingham (2016), Ernest Smith (2017), Fritz Masten (2018) and Rodney Gordon (2019).
The TDF/Irene Sharaff Memorial Tribute was created to recognize, celebrate and remember the 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 can learn and grow, standing on the shoulders of the giants who came before.
The TDF/Irene Sharaff Memorial Tribute Award was previously bestowed upon Raoul Pene Du Bois (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 Barceló (2010), Charles LeMaire (2011), William and Jean Eckart (2012), Martin Pakledinaz (2013), Sam Kirkpatrick (2014), Raoul Pene Du Bois (2015), Dorothy Jeakins (2016) Motley – Margaret Harris, Sophie Harris and Elizabeth 
Montgomery Wilmot (2017), Karinska (2018) and Irene Sharaff (2019).

FRED VOELPEL (2022 TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award) (1927-2022) was an artist: a master of set design, costume design and lighting design. Born in 1927 in Peoria, Illinois, Voelpel was educated at the University of Illinois and the Yale School of Drama (MFA 1953), where he studied with Donald Oenslager. After Yale, he was selected for studies at Interlochen, the famous school of the arts in northwest Michigan. In 1956, he arrived in NYC at the age of 25 and began designing costumes and sets.

His Broadway credits include Einstein and the Polar Bear (1981 - Scenic Design), Bring Back Birdie (1981 - Costume Design), Very Good Eddie (1975 - Scenic and Lighting Design), Seascape (1975 - Costume Design), And Miss Reardon Drinks a Little (1971 - Scenic Design), Two By Two (1970 - Costume Design), The Rothschilds (1970 - Scenery and Costume Supervisor), Oh! Calcutta! (1969 - Costume Design), Cop-Out (1969 - Scenic and Costume Design), Tiger at the Gates (1968 - Costume Design), Drat! The Cat! (1965 - Costume Design), Peterpat (1965 - Costume Design), The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window (1964 - Costume Design), A Murderer Among Us (1964 - Costume Design), Sophie (1963 - Costume Design), The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore (1963 - Costume Design), No Strings (1962 - Costume Design with Donald Brooks), The Young Abe Lincoln (1961 - Scenic, Costume and Lighting Design), Vintage '60 (1960 - Scenic and Costume Design) and From A to Z (1960 - Scenic, Costume and Lighting Design). He also designed extensively both regionally and Off Broadway.  

Voelpel designed many productions for The National Theatre of the Deaf, including the Broadway productions of Sganarelle (1970 - Scenic and Costume Design), Songs From Milk Wood (1970 - Costume Design) and the 1967 production composed of The Critic, On the Harmfulness of Tobacco, Tyger! Tyger! and other burnings. He was the resident designer for the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center, The National Theatre of the Deaf and for The Lost Colony on Roanoke Island. Starting in 1969, he was also the resident designer for the National Playwrights Conference, and he joined the faculty of the National Theatre Institute when it was founded in 1970.

His film and TV credits are the 1972 film version of Oh! Calcutta! (Costume Design), the 1969 TV movie The Littlest Angel (Costume Design), the 1967 Barbra Streisand TV special The Belle of 14th Street (Costume Design) and one 1966 episode of ABC Stage 67 (Scenic and Costume Design).

The winner of the 1970 Drama Desk Outstanding Set Design Award for The Memory Bank, he was also nominated for a 1975 Drama Desk Costume Design for the production of Seascape. He was responsible for the redesign of the NYU School of the Arts fledgling Design Department with colleagues Oliver Smith and Lloyd Burlingame. While teaching costume and scenic design there, he won NYU's most prestigious teaching award called the “Great Teacher Award.”

EUGENE LEE (2022 Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Sustained Excellence in Theatrical Design) holds BFA degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon, an MFA from Yale and three honorary doctorates. He has been the production designer of Saturday Night Live since 1974. He has received the Tony Award, the American Theatre Wing's Design Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, the Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Elliot Norton Prize for Sustained Achievement, the Emmy Award, the Art Directors Guild Award and the Pell Award. He is currently represented on Broadway by the musical Wicked and has been inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in New York. 

On Broadway, Lee has designed the scenery for Bright Star, Amazing Grace, The Velocity of Autumn, The Other Place, Glengarry Glen Ross, A Streetcar Named Desire, You’re Welcome America, The Homecoming, The Pirate Queen, Seussical, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Colin Quinn – An Irish Wake, Ragtime, On the Waterfront, Show Boat, The Hothouse, Agnes of God, The Little Prince and the Aviator, Merrily We Roll Along, Gilda Radner - Live From New York, Sweeney Todd, Some of My Best Friends, The Skin of Our Teeth, Candide, Dude, and Wilson in the Promise Land.  

Lee’s Off-Broadway credits include Napoli, Brooklyn (Roundabout Theatre Company), The Fortress of Solitude (The Public Theater), Grasses of a Thousand Colors (The Public Theater), My Name Is Asher Lev (Westside Theatre), Heartless (Signature Theatre Company), Alice in Wonderland (The Public Theater) and Slave Ship (Chelsea Theatre Center).

He has been Resident Designer at Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island for over 50 years, beginning with his long collaboration with founding Artistic Director Adrian Hall. Lee has also designed regionally at Long Wharf Theatre, The Huntington Theatre, Arena Stage, Hartford Stage, Seattle Rep, the Goodman Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, Yale Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, the Alley Theatre and the McCarter Theatre Center.

In addition to over 40 seasons of Saturday Night Live, he also designed The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers, all for Lorne Michaels and NBCUniversal. Other television work includes Maya & Marty (NBC), On Golden Pond (CBS) and Paul Simon’s televised concerts Graceland: The African Concert and The Concert in Central Park. Lee’s film work includes Francis Ford Coppola’s Hammett, Danny Huston's Mr. North and Louis Malle's Vanya on 42nd Street

He was born in Beloit, Wisconsin and lives with his wife Brooke and their dog in Providence, Rhode Island, where they raised their two sons.

DEDE AYITE (2022 TDF/Kitty Leech Young Master Award): Originally from Ghana, Ms. Ayite moved to the US in her final years of high school. She attended Lehigh University. After graduating with a dual degree in theatre and behavioral neuroscience, she remained at Lehigh to run the scene shop, designing and managing student productions. She went on to graduate work at the Yale School of Drama in scenic design (MFA 2011).
Her initial post-grad stints included assisting Eugene Lee, as well as an apprenticeship at The Santa Fe Opera. She began to work as an assistant costume designer with a number of designers but cites Clint Ramos and Emilio Sosa as true mentors. Her first Broadway credits were as an Associate Costume Designer to Clint Ramos on In Transit (2016), Associate Costume Designer to Riccardo Hernández on The Gin Game (2015) and Assistant Costume Designer to Emilio Sosa on Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill (2014).

It was Clint Ramos who recommended her to director Robert O’Hara, which led to her costume design work on Slave Play (2018 - New York Theatre Workshop and on Broadway), Mankind (2018) and Bella: An American Tall Tale (2017) both at Playwrights Horizons, and The Wiz (2016 - Oregon Shakespeare Festival).

To date, her Broadway credits are Topdog/Underdog (2022), How I Learned to Drive (2022), American Buffalo (2022), Chicken & Biscuits (2021), A Soldier's Play (2020), Slave Play (2019 and 2021), American Son (2018), Children of a Lesser God (2018). 

Ms. Ayite has designed numerous Off-Broadway and regional productions. She won the 2019 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Costume Design for By the Way, Meet Vera Stark, and was also nominated for Lucille Lortel, AUDELCO, Drama Desk and Hewes Design Awards for her designs for that production. She won the 2018 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Costume Design for School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play. She was nominated for The Secret Life of Bees (2019 AUDELCO Award), If Pretty Hurts Ugly Must Be a Muhfucka (2019 Drama Desk and Hewes Design Awards), Slave Play (2019 Hewes Design Award), Bella: An American Tall Tale (2018 Lucille Lortel, Drama Desk, Hewes Design and AUDELCO Awards), School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play (2018 Drama Desk and Hewes Design Awards) and The Royale (2016 AUDELCO Award).

MICHAEL CURRY (2022 TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award) is an award-winning visual artist and concept designer, known for his broad work in theatre and live entertainment. He is sought out by the world’s top entertainment organizations, such as The Metropolitan Opera, Universal Studios, Cirque du Soleil and the International Olympic Committee to create large-scale spectacles. He has brought his vision to countless shows for Disney, including co-designing puppets and masks with Julie Taymor for The Lion King on Broadway as well as Frozen

Along with Curry's work in character and production design, he specializes in conceptual design, master planning and immersive environment programming. His forward-thinking has allowed him to be a predictor of new and innovative technologies and a leading fixture in the international art world. While working at a global scale, Curry embraces local styles, techniques and artists to fully integrate his creations into the communities and cultures for which he designs. For this reason, Curry is continually chosen to share his expertise and excellence with the world’s largest audiences

CAROLINE F. SIEDLE (2022 TDF/Irene Sharaff Memorial Tribute) (1867–1907) Born in England, Siedle was one of the earliest designers to receive credit for her work in theatre programs; she has been called the first woman to achieve recognition as a professional costume designer. She established an atelier in New York City to serve the theatre trade, and designed costumes for many musicals, including Victor Herbert's classic Babes in Toyland. She regularly worked for Lillian Russell and Julian Mitchell, the director of The Wizard of Oz show.  

Her Broadway credits include When Dreams Come True (1913), A Parisian Model (1908), The Red Mill (1906), The Tattooed Man (1907), The White Hen (1907), About Town (1906), Dream City (1906), The Rich Mr. Hoggenheimer (1906), Wonderland (1905), It Happened in Nordland (1904), The Emerald Isle (1902), A Royal Rogue (1900), The Fortune Teller (1898) and The Wedding Day (1897).

Her influential designs included those for the opera Dolly Varden (1902 - Herald Square Theatre), which re-popularized 1730s silhouettes, and the musical comedy Piff! Paff!! Pouf!!! (1904 - Casino Theatre) with its famous "Radium Ballet." For that novelty number, the white frilly dresses of the eight “Pony Ballet” girls were coated with a luminous substance, which made the dancers glow “like gigantic fireflies” when the auditorium was darkened. “Her ability to design,” said Julian Mitchell, “amounted to genius.”

At the time of her death at age 39, Ms. Siedle was the property mistress of The Metropolitan Opera. 

THE TDF COSTUME COLLECTION consists of the TDF Costume Collection Rental Program and the TDF Costume Collection Research Program. The Rental Program maintains an extensive inventory of more than 80,000 costumes and accessories for rent at discount prices 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 Kaufman Astoria Studios. This past year, the Collection served organizations that produced more than 500 productions and mail orders in 21 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 Research Program provides resources for those looking to study the art of theatrical costume design.
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. 

Founded in 1968, TDF (formerly known as Theatre Development Fund) is a not-for-profit service organization dedicated to bringing the power of the performing arts to everyone. TDF’s mission is to sustain live theatre and dance by engaging a broad and diverse audience and eliminating barriers to attendance. We fulfill our mission with a variety of programs that expand access, cultivate communities and support the makers of the performing arts.  
We are known for our theatregoing programs, including the TKTS by TDF Discount Booths and TDF Membership program; Accessibility programs (including open captioned, audio described and Autism Friendly Performances), Education & Community Engagement programs (serving more than 12,000 New York City students annually and thousands of underserved individuals and veterans), as well as the TDF Costume Collection Rental and Research Programs. During the COVID-19 theatre shutdown, we continued to serve our constituents by creating virtual adaptations of our programs via Zoom and other streaming platforms. TDF envisions a world where the transformative experience of attending live theatre and dance is essential, relevant, accessible and inspirational. To learn more about TDF, go to Facebook/Instagram/Twitter: @tdfnyc. 

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