The 28th annual Michael Merritt Awards for Excellence in Design and Collaboration, a Chicago-based national theatre-industry awards program, will be presented LIVE AND IN PERSON on Monday, May 23, 2022, from 5 to 10 PM. The ceremony will take place at Steppenwolf Theatre, located at 1650 N. Halsted in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. For tickets to the event, click here.
The awards, administered by the Michael Merritt Awards and Endowment Fund, honor the memory of former Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department faculty member and Joseph Jefferson Award-winning stage and film designer Michael Merritt, noted for his set, lighting, and costume designs for Chicago’s Goodman, Steppenwolf, Northlight, Victory Gardens, Wisdom Bridge, National Jewish, and Chicago Shakespeare theatres as well as for Broadway and motion pictures. Merritt died in 1992 at the age of 47.
This year’s Michael Merritt Awards will honor Los Angeles-based set designer Takeshi Kata, Chair of Design at the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts, who will receive the Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration, and Steppenwolf Theatre’s resident audio engineer Martha Wegener, who will receive the Robert Christen Award for Excellence in Technical Collaboration.
For The Group, an anti-racist collective of Chicago-based theatre professionals whose advisory team includes Columbia College Theatre Department production manager Erica L. Sandvig, will receive the Arts Advocacy Award.
The Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award, named in memory of former Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member and Joseph Jefferson Award-winning theatre director Michael Maggio, will be presented to Raquel Adorno, a costume designer based in Chicago and Puerto Rico, and Yeaji Kim, a scenic and projections designer based in Chicago. The Emerging Technical Designer Award will be presented to Chicago-based props designer and technical director Rowan Doe.
The Michael Merritt Awards program also recognizes and encourages the work of young professionals and students through a national design exposition and academic achievement prizes to promising theatrical design and technology students. One of these prizes, the John Murbach Columbia College Chicago Prize, is given annually to a student in the Columbia College Chicago Theatre Department’s Theatre Design and Technology program. The prize honors the memory of former Columbia College Theatre Department faculty member John Murbach, who died in 2001 at age 44. This year’s Murbach Prize will be presented to Columbia College alum Shayna Patel ’22, a graduate of the Theatre Department’s BA Program in Theatre Design and Technology.
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.
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