Live Design Award Winner: Natasha Katz

American in Paris
(Angela Sterling) American in Paris
Long Day's Journey Into Night. Photo by Joan Marcus.

For a second year, Live Design recognizes outstanding individual designers and teams for excellence in design achievement. This year, six winners are honored: Abe Jacob, for a legendary career in sound design; Beowulf Boritt, for innovation in scenic design on and Off-Broadway; Laura Frank, for technical excellence in media technology for television, special events, theatre, concerts, film, and corporate; Full Flood, for the best in live broadcast lighting for awards shows and special events; Natasha Katz, for sustained achievement in theatrical lighting design; and Seven Design Works (LeRoy Bennett, Cory FitzGerald, and Tobias Rylander), for creativity in collaboration for concert tours, film, and television. The awards will be presented Monday, June 13, 2016 at Upper Story by Charlie Palmer in New York City.

Natasha Katz

Theatrical lighting designer Natasha Katz has dedicated her talents to the worlds of theatre, opera, and ballet for over 30 years. With over 50 Broadway shows under her cap, she has been nominated for 13 Tony Awards, including a 2016 nomination for her work in Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Katz has won five Tony Awards, including last year’s Best Lighting Design of a Musical for An American In Paris. She is currently represented on Broadway by her work in Aladdin, An American In Paris, Long Day’s Journey Into Night, and School Of Rock The Musical, with Motown The Musical to open in July and a revival of Cats in August. In the world of dance, she often collaborates with choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, including The Winter’s Tale, now at the Royal Opera House until June 10. She has also designed for the New York City Opera and The Royal Opera.

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Katz’s colleagues and friends, Thomas Schumacher and Bob Crowley, share a few words on her Live Design Award for sustained achievement in theatrical lighting design.

An American In Paris. Photo by Angela Sterling.

We know that my friend Natasha Katz can beautifully light actors (think of those heartbreaking moments of Celia Keenan-Bolger with her menagerie), enormous sets (those endless vistas in Lincoln Center’s Twelfth Night), and expansive stage floors (the saturated blues in An American In Paris). Magician that she is, Natasha can light the very air; I swear you can see the heat shimmering over the dunes in Aladdin.

I’ve known Natasha for almost 20 years, and Frozen will be our seventh show together. She is a woman of exceptional accomplishment, but to talk to her is to hear only her love of theatre. She’ll talk about the artists who made her better: her mentor Roger Morgan, director Clifford Williams, and, maybe most important, stage wizard Bob Crowley. She’ll passionately remind you of the brilliant women who came before her in lighting: Jean Rosenthal, Arden Fingerhut, and the peerless Tharon Musser. She’ll tell you, “Even if I don’t mean to, all of a sudden, I love the show I’m working on, every time.”

How fitting it is that Natasha receives this award for sustained excellence over her 30 year career; the breadth and variety of her work is simply staggering: 50 Broadway shows, five Tony Awards, and seven additional nominations, and is there a lighting designer in the world whose sheer vibrancy can be ID’d without so much as a glance at the title page?

“Sustained excellence” indeed.

—Thomas Schumacher, President and Producer for Disney Theatrical Group

School Of Rock. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

As any self-respecting stage designer knows, his or her work is only as good as it is lit. I have by now lost count of how many times Natasha has made my work look better by her generous genius.

In her quiet, stealth-like fashion, she sits at her table in the stalls of a theatre or an opera house and sculpts the scenery, the actors, singers, and dancers into three dimensions so that in turn the audience, by ‘seeing’ more clearly, observe, understand, and, as a result, are drawn into the performance. No mean gift.

Like all great things in life and in the theatre, it should look “easy,” by which I mean it doesn’t pull focus and doesn’t draw attention to itself, but by being “right” and appropriate, it illuminates. 

Natasha Katz has been illuminating my life and work literally and metaphorically for over 20 years. How lucky am I? Oh, and by the way, she is also one classy lady.

—Bob Crowley, Set and Costume Designer

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