Columbia College Chicago Theatre Design Students’ Work to Be Highlighted at Michael Merritt Awards Event May 14; Therese Ritchie Receives John Murbach Prize

Therese Ritchie

Graduating seniors in the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department‘s Theatre Design program will be featured at the 25th Annual Michael Merritt Awards for Excellence in Design and Collaboration on Monday, May 14. Scenic designer and puppet creator Therese Ritchie, a 2018 graduate of the Theatre Department‘s BA Program in Theatre Design, will receive the 2018 John Murbach Columbia College Chicago Prize, named in honor of the late scenic designer and Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member John Murbach. In addition, work by Ritchie and her fellow 2018 Theatre Design program graduates Conchita AvitiaBen Carne, and Annaliese Voci will be displayed as part of the Theatre Design Exposition that begins the Merritt Awards evening on May 14. Ritchie will show examples of her scenic and puppet design work; Avitia and Carne will show examples of their lighting designs, and Voci will display examples of her costume designs. Tickets to the Merritt Awards event are $5 for students and $20 for the general public. For tickets, click here.
Below is a sampling of design work by Ritchie, Avitia, and Voci for productions in the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s 2017-2018 Mainstage Season — Servant of Two Masters, Caroline, or Change, and The Conference of the Birds:

Set design by Therese Ritchie for Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s 2017 mainstage production of “Caroline, or Change.”

Puppet design by Therese Ritchie for Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s 2018 mainstage production of “The Conference of the Birds.”

“Servant of Two Masters”: costume design by Annaliese Voci, lighting design by Conchita Avitia

“Servant of Two Masters”: costume design by Annaliese Voci, lighting design by Conchita Avitia

The Michael Merritt Awards and Endowment Fund honor the memory of Joseph Jefferson Award-winning scenic designer and Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department faculty member Michael Merritt, noted for his designs for Chicago’s Goodman and Steppenwolf theatres as well as for Broadway and motion pictures. The Michael Merritt Award, a national award unique in its emphasis on excellence in both design and collaboration, is presented annually to outstanding professional theatrical designers. The Endowment Fund recognizes and encourages the work of young professionals and students through a national design exposition and prizes to promising theatrical design students. One of these prizes, the John Murbach Prize, is given annually to a graduating Theatre Design student at Columbia College.

The Michael Merritt Awards and Endowment Fund focuses on supporting collaborative work, citing a statement by famed musical theatre writer-director-producer Oscar Hammerstein II:

Collaboration is the biggest word in the theater.  It is the most important element in theatrical success. Not just the collaboration between an author and a composer, but the total collaboration in every play, the convergence and co-ordination of all the different talents, producing, writing, directing, choreography, acting, scene designing, costume designing, lighting, orchestration, theater management, company management, public relations–the mixture of all these ingredients is essential to every theatrical meal that seeks to make itself palatable to the public. To get along in the theater you must enjoy working side by side with other people. You must be willing not only to give your best to them but to accept their best and give them the opportunity of adding their efforts to yours to their full capacities.

The Michael Merritt Awards event begins at 5 PM with a Theatre Design Exposition showcasing the works of Chicago-area emerging theatrical designers and graduating design students from Columbia College, Northwestern University, DePaul University, and Loyola University Chicago. A 7 PM panel discussion exploring current issues of interest to professional and working designers will be followed by the awards presentation ceremony from 8:15 to 8:45 PM, followed by food, wine, beer, and fellowship until 10 PM. For tickets and more information, click here.