Carnegie Mellon students win awards in costume, sound design
Two student designers from Carnegie Mellon University's School of Drama will be honored for their work at the United States Institute for Theatre Technology's annual conference.
Costume designer Albulena Borovci and sound designer Erik T. Lawson are among the nine who will receive 2013 USITT Young Designers & Technicians in the Performing Arts Awards in a ceremony at the USITT's Annual Conference & Stage Expo on March 21 in Milwaukee.
They join 12 other Carnegie Mellon students who have won USITT Young Designers & Technicians in the Performing Arts Awards since 2003, as well as past winners from elsewhere, such as scenic designer Scott Pask who designed sets for recent Broadway musicals such as “The Book of Mormon” and the 2011 revival of “Hair.”
Borovci, who will graduate in May from the University's School of Drama with an MFA, will receive the 2013 Zelma H. Weisfeld Costume Design & Technology Award.
“This is definitely going to decorate my resume,” says Borovci, a native of Kosovo who created costumes for films there. “If you look at people who have received (the award), they are already doing wonderful things in their careers.”
Lawson, who received his MFA from the University in 2012, will receive the 2013 Robert E. Cohen Sound Achievement Award.
“The goal of the awards is to find young people who have incredible artistic ability to express something,” says David Grindle, the executive director of USITT, a national association for performing arts and technology professionals. “They are the best of what's coming forward in our industry.”
There's more to the award than recognition, Grindle says. Each recipient receives a cash prize of as much as $1,000. More importantly, each is given free registration to the conference and encouraged to attend and mingle with veteran designers in their field.
“We make sure they interact ... so we can do everything possible to make sure they have connections,” Grindle says.
“Theater designers depend on networking, word of mouth and the reputations of their designs to build professional and artistic relationships,” says Lawson, who hopes to teach as well as design. “I am hopeful this award will help build academic bridges and relationships.”
For this year's award, USITT members nominated 60 individuals. Winners were chosen by a panel of experts in the nominees' technical field.
Susan Tsu, professor of costume design at Carnegie Mellon, nominated Borovci, who has designed costumes for School of Drama productions of “The Rivals” and “Mad Forest.”
“Lena's ability to find the reality in the character was really lovely,” Tsu says. “She has got innate talent but also has a lot of soul. ... I see her working as a real artist with a real sense of curiosity.”
After reviewing her portfolio, the panelists said Borovci's talent was undeniable. “(She) brings serious skills to the table,” they noted. “The designer has it all — range of aesthetic, ability to beautifully convey design ideas in a variety of styles and media, ... excellent sense of design aesthetic.”
Joe Pino, associate professor of sound design and design option co-coordinator at Carnegie Mellon nominated Lawson, who is working in Manhattan as a sound designer and composer. While at Carnegie Mellon, he composed sound designs for productions of “A Midsummer Night's Dream” and “Suddenly Last Summer.”
Panelists were impressed and intrigued by Lawson's work and his philosophy.
“I really like what I see and hear,” one said.
“I was particularly intrigued by your methods of visualizing and planning your scores,” said another.
“Much of Erik's sound score work is very experimental and, while gorgeous and evocative, it is less likely to have standard ‘music' elements, specifically melodies and standard song structures,” Pino says. “That is why the music he wrote for ‘Midsummer Night's Dream' is so interesting: It shows his gift for melody and harmonic structure in a much more conventional sound-composition setting.”
Short excerpts of Lawson's sound design for “A Midsummer Night's Dream” can be heard at www.eriktlawson.com/a-midsummer-nights-dream/.
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or firstname.lastname@example.org.