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 graduating 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 Ab Rieve ’23, who graduated with a double BA in Theatre Design and Technology and Illustration.
“All of us 2023 grads have been on a wild ride these last four years,” says Rieve, “and I’m so happy to have found an incredible community to learn and grow with. In my time here at Columbia I have worked in three shops (scenic, costume, and props) and created work for shows with a legion of fantastic creators and mentors. I am incredibly fortunate to have shared space with so many awesome artists – and though I didn’t manage to work in the lighting lab personally, I still found friends there as well. Getting involved is the biggest key to Columbia, and taking opportunities when you are able and excited about them. Making yourself known is much more than doing great work, it is connecting with your peers and making an effort to celebrate their victories and comfort them in their hardships. Next up for me is hopefully more of the same: working in Chicago, connecting with people, and making awesome theatre!”
The Michael Merritt Awards, a Chicago-based national theatre-industry awards program administered by the Michael Merritt Awards and Endowment Fund, honors 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.
As previously reported in this blog, Heather Gilbert is nominated for a 2023 Tony Award for Best Lighting Design of a Musical for the current Broadway production of Parade at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre. Gilbert is also nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design of a Musical for the same show. As previously reported in this blog, Gilbert won the 2020 Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Lighting Design for a Play for her Broadway designing debut with the drama The Sound Inside, which ran on Broadway from September 2019 through mid-January of 2020. As previously reported in this blog, Gilbert also won a 2020 Joseph Jefferson Award in the category of Lighting Design-Large for her work on Steppenwolf Theatre’s production of Bug.