Franco Zeffirelli To Receive The Robert L. B. Tobin Award For Lifetime Achievement In Theatrical Design


The legendary designer and director, Franco Zeffirelli, will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Award's special honor, the Robert L. B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design, at a ceremony on Friday, April 7, at the Hudson Theatre in New York City. Zeffirelli has enjoyed a 50+-year career as an internationally renowned scenic designer, costume designer and director. He won a special Tony Award in 1962 for his design and direction of the Old Vic's Romeo and Juliet.

In addition, costume and set designer Lester Polakov will be presented with the TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award; costume designer Emilio Sosa will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award; famed theatre craftsman Martin Izquierdo will receive the TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award; and Lila de Nobili, the famed designer and director, will be named the winner of the TDF/Irene Sharaff Posthumous Award.

Zeffirelli was born February 12, 1923 in Florence, Italy. He started out as an actor in the stage productions of Luchino Visconti, then worked as an assistant on several Visconti-directed films. After World War II, Zeffirelli launched a career designing, costuming, and directing operas, a field of entertainment to which he'd return periodically throughout his life and which led to his first directorial credit, the Swiss-produced film, La Boheme (1965). He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 1964, with his production of Falstaff, which he had previously staged and designed in various parts of the world. One of his most famous productions at the Met was the 1966 Opening Night of the new Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with the world premiere of Antony and Cleopatra starring Leontyne Price. Other Metropolitan Opera credits include: production design of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci (1970) direction and set design of Otello (1972), La Bohème (1981), Tosca (1985), Turandot (1987), La Traviata (1989), Don Giovanni (1990), and Carmen (1996) to name just a few. In film, Zeffirelli's reputation in the 1960s rested on his boisterous, non-traditional movie versions of Shakespeare. He directed Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in a lusty adaptation of Taming of the Shrew (1967), then became an icon for the Youth Movement by casting 17-year-old Leonard Whiting and 15-year-old Olivia Hussey in Romeo and Juliet (1968). His eye for visual richness served him well in the opulent Brother Sun/Sister Moon (1973), a romanticized account of Francis of Assisi. His other film credits include: The Champ (1979), Endless Love (1981), La Traviata (1982), Otello (1986), Hamlet (1990), Tea with Mussolini (1999), and Callas Forever (2002).

Polakov was born in Chicago in 1916 and studied in New York with George Grosz and at Columbia University. He began his career designing sets in summer stock and in 1939 made his debut in New York City as the scenic designer for The Mother. This was quickly followed in 1940 by designing the costumes for Reunion in New York, as well as assisting scenic designer Harry Horner on Lady in the Dark. After service in World War II, he resumed designing and also painting, with several exhibitions of his paintings as a result. In 1958, he established the Lester Polakov Studio of Stage Design, later known as the Studio and Forum of Stage Design, where he employed some of the best known designers of sets, lights, and costumes to teach design. In addition to teaching and overseeing the operation of the school, he continued to design sets and costumes for the stage. In 1999, Polakov was the recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award in Scenery presented to him by USITT. His credits include Call Me Mister (1946, scenic design), Crime and Punishment (1947, costume design), The Member of the Wedding (1950, scenic, costume, and lighting design; also replacement stage manager), The Skin of Our Teeth (1955, scenic design), Great Day in the Morning (1962, scenic and lighting design), and Charlotte (1980, scenic design).

Sosa designed the costumes for Topdog/Underdog on Broadway at The Public Theater, London's Royal Court Theatre, Curran Theater and Mark Taper Forum; The Seven and Eyewitness Blues at New York Theater Workshop; The Story at the Public Theater; Birdie Blue and Living Out at Second Stage Theater; Cuttin' Up and Senor Discretion, Himself (Helen Hayes Award nominee) at Arena Stage; Ain't Misbehavin' at Pittsburgh Public Theater; Once On This Island at Center Stage and Sacramento Music Circus; The Piano Lesson at Madison Repertory Theater; Adoration of the Old Woman at La Jolla Playhouse; Caligula at Harlem Classical Theater; and Pippin at Bay Street Theater. He was AUDELCO nominated for Radiant Baby at the Public Theater and won the AUDELCO Award in 2003 for his work on Crowns at Second Stage Theater. His dance credits include New York City Ballet (Artist in Residence), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ballet Hispanico and Complexions. Among his numerous television credits are HBO, MTV, ABC, and Fox Television, all under the direction of Spike Lee. He has been featured in New York, Vibe, Cosmopolitan, Savoy and Latina magazines and he serves as image consultant for the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, featuring Wynton Marsalis.

Izquierdo founded Izquierdo Studio in 1981, a full service costume, prop, scenic, and design studio. His shop specializes in craft designs, and he has built costumes for Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, Shogun, Grind, Song & Dance, Legs Diamond, Dancin', Will Rodgers Follies, Wind in the Willows, Three Musketeers, Beauty & the Beast, and Angels in America. As Izquierdo Studio included wood making, metal work, and lighting into its repertoire, it began to build sets and props for fashion designers Ann Klein, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Norma Kamali, photographers Bruce Weber, Annie Leibovitz, Herb Ritz, and Richard Avedon. Recent projects include Julie Taymor's Across the Universe, Turandot, Santa Fe, Spiderman and Spiderman II, Die Walkurie, Washington Opera, and Pride & Glory.

De Nobili was born on September 3, 1916. From an early age, she was acquainted with the world of drawing, most probably through her uncle, the painter, Marcel Vertès. In the 1930s, she attended the studio of Ferrucio Ferrazzi at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. She left that city just after it was bombed in 1943 and settled after the war in Paris. It was there, while continuing to paint, that she was asked by the leading magazines, such as Vogue, to illustrate the collections shown by Haute Couture. These were the years of Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, and Christian Dior. It was immediately apparent to all who saw her work that it bore the stamp of a unique and rare talent. Her work in the theatre began almost fortuitously through a childhood friend, the actress Françoise Lugagne, who was the wife of director Raymond Rouleau. It was from their exceptional, long and fruitful collaboration that some of the most astonishing stage designs emerged, including: Angel Pavement (1947), Le Voleur d'Enfants (1948), A Streetcar Named Desire (1949), La Petite Lili (1951), Anna Karenine (1951), Gigi (1951), Cyrano de Bergerac(1953), The Country Girl (1954), The Crucible(1961), L'Arlésiene (1958), Carmen (1959), and The Aspern Papers (1961). In 1954, Lila worked with the legendary Luchino Visconti on Mario and the Magician, a ballet based on the short story by Thomas Mann. They next worked together in 1955 at La Scala on Visconti's production of La Traviata with Maria Callas as Violetta. It was after a performance at La Scala that she first met Yannis Tsarouchis, one of the most important twentieth-century Greek painters. He later claimed he was astonished by the sight of this woman who painted her sets by herself with such simplicity and phenomenal results. Their meeting was to grow into a lifelong friendship. Throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s, she worked continuously in theatre, opera, ballet, and film, including: Sable a ballet (1956), Peter Hall's Cymbeline (1957), Franco Zeffirelli's Mignon (1957), Orphée (1958), Hall's Twelfth Night and Midsummer Night's Dream (1958), Ondine (1959), Ruy Blas (1960), Gian Carlo Menotti's La Bohème (1960), Falstaff (1961), Zeffirelli's Aida (1962), Zeffirelli's Rigoletto (1963), Le roi gourmet (1964), Love for Love (1965), Seule dans le noir (1966), costumes for Sleeping Beauty (1968), and the sets for Manon Lescaut (1973). With the exception of Manon Lescaut in 1973, de Nobili declined all offers to do with the theatre in the 1970s. She retired into Parisian reclusion with her cats and died on February 19, 2002, at the age of 86.

About The Awards

Throughout her long and distinguished career, elegance and an attention to detail were the trademarks of costume designer Irene Sharaff. 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 the 2006 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards, who were selected by the TDF Costume Collection's Advisory Committee. The TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards are presented through Theatre Development Fund's Costume Collection.

The awardees were selected by the TDF/Costume Collection's Advisory Committee, which is comprised of leading members of the theatrical costume design community. They are: Gregg Barnes, Suzy Benzinger, Linda Fisher, Lana Fritz, Rodney Gordon, Desmond Heeley, Holly Hynes, Willa Kim, Carolyn Kostopoulous, Kitty Leech, David Murin, Sally Ann Parsons, Robert Perdziola, Carrie Robbins, Eduardo, Sicangco, Scott Traugott, Jose Varona, Tony Walton, Patrick Wiley and David Zinn.

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award, first presented to the legendary Miss Sharaff in 1993, is bestowed upon a costume designer who, over the course of his or her career, has achieved great distinction and demonstrated a mastery of the art. The award is presented to a designer whose work embodies those qualities of excellence represented in the life work of Irene Sharaff: a keen sense of color, a feeling for material and texture, an eye for shape and form, and a sure command of the craft. Such a designer's achievement may stem from work for the theatre opera, dance or film or, as was true of Irene 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), and Florence Klotz (2005).

Named for philanthropist Robert L.B. Tobin, the recipient of the Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design is an artist whose mastery of his or her craft as exemplified through his or her body of work, in one or more disciplines of theatrical design (costume, settings, lighting, sound), has become an inspiration to all designers. The Robert L.B. Tobin Award for Lifetime Achievement in Theatrical Design was first presented in 2004 to acclaimed set and costume designer Tony Walton. The award was presented in 2005 to Robert O'Hearn.

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award is presented to a designer whose work, beyond being promising, has come to fruition. The award, honoring a designer of distinction early in his or her career, 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.

TDF Irene Sharaff Young Master Award has been bestowed upon: Gregg Barnes (1994), Toni-Leslie James (1996), Paul Tazewell (1997), Martin Pakledinaz (1998), Suzy Benzinger (1999), Robert Perdziola (2000), Constance Hoffman (2001), Gregory Gale and Jonathan Bixby (2002), Anita Yavich (2003), Mirena Rada (2004), and David Zinn (2005).

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Artisan Award, which was created in 1999, recognizes an individual or company that has made an outstanding supportive contribution in the field of costume technology. Among those who this award honors are: assistant and associate costume designers, costume shops that take sketches and turn them into glorious and breathtaking realities, teachers who dedicate their lives to turning raw talent into professional accomplished designers, and authors who create the texts and trade publications without which designers could not function.

The TDF/Irene Sharaff Posthumous Award, also created in 1999, recognizes, celebrates and remembers those artists who have 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 is able to learn and grow, standing on the shoulders of the giants that went before them.

TDF Irene Sharaff Artisan Awards have been previously awarded to: Ray Diffen (1999), Woody Shelp (2000), Barbara Matera (2001), Paul Huntley (2002), Maria Brizzi/Grace Costumes (2003), Nino Novellino (2004) and Vincent Zullo (2005); and the Posthumous Award to Raoul Pene DuBois (1999), Lucinda Ballard (2000), Aline Bernstein (2001), Cecil Beaton (2002), Ruth Morley (2003), Lemuel Ayers (2004), and Oliver Messel.

The TDF Costume Collection maintains an extensive inventory of more than 65,000 costumes and accessories for rental at discounted price by any not-for-profit theatre company, opera company, university, high school, church group, etc. The Collection currently serves organizations that produce over 500 productions per year in 32 states across the country. The Collection is located in a 14,000 sq.ft loft at 601 West 26 Street, New York, NY 10001. It stocks all periods and accepts donations from productions, institutions and individuals. These donations are tax-exempt to the degree allowed by law.

The Tobin Theatre Arts Fund 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 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. In its continuing effort to promote the art of the designer, The Foundation also sponsors programs that offer students an opportunity to exhibit their work such as, at the Prague Quadrennial. It also funds visiting artists' programs to area colleges and universities, and assists in the publication of monographs on individual designers.

Theatre Development Fund, the largest not-for-profit service organization for the performing arts in the United States, was established in 1968 to foster works of artistic merit by supporting new productions and to broaden the audience for all the performing arts. Since then, TDF has played a unique role in strengthening New York City's performing arts. TDF's combined programs have filled over 60 million theatre seats; provided subsidy support to over 800 plays, including 28 Pulitzer prize honorees; and returned over a billion dollars in revenue to theatre, dance and music organizations. TDF's TKTS ticket booth, known the world over for its same day discount tickets, celebrated its 32nd anniversary in Times Square on June 25, 2005. Additionally, TDF's membership and voucher programs touch the lives of thousands of New Yorkers who might not otherwise be able to enjoy the unique experience of theatre. TDF also presents highly regarded sign language interpreted performances for the Deaf Community (in addition to open captioned performances), sponsors comprehensive training courses for future producers, provides a 24-hour New York City arts hotline, and maintains a 65,000 item Costume Collection.

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