On March 2, Theatre Development Fund will bestow lifetime achievement honors on two-time Tony winner Willa Kim, via the annual TDF Irene Sharaff Award for excellence in costume design. Suzy Benzinger will also be honored with The Young Master Award.
Kim's costumes brought dazzle to such major shows as The Will Rogers Follies and Sophisticated Ladies (the Tony winners), as well as Goodtime Charley, Dancin', Victor/Victoria and Legs Diamond. Off-Broadway, she clothed Promenade and Operation Sidewinder.
The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to a designer whose work embodies the excellence found in Sharaff's craft: "a keen sense of color, a feeling for material and texture, an eye for shape and form." Designers need not necessarily work only in the theatre; dance, opera and film creations are also considered. Previous lifetime achievement winners include Jane Greenwood (1998), Patricia Zipprodt (1997), Alvin Colt (1996) and Miles White.
Benzinger worked as an assistant to Theoni V. Aldredge for nine years at Buffalo, NY's Studio Arena. Her professional credits include Miss Saigon, Ain't Broadway Grand and the London mountings of Chess and Ziegfeld.
The Young Master Award rewards a designer early in his career. Previous Young Masters include Martin Pakledinaz (1998), Paul Tazewell (1997), Toni-Leslie James (1996) and Gregg Barnes (1994). Ray Diffen, of Ray Diffen Stage Clothes, will receive the newly-created Irene Sharaff Benchmark Award, for "outstanding supportive contribution in the field of costume technology. Diffen started at the Old Vic in London and later established a shop in Stratford, Ontario with Tanya Moiseiwitsch and Tyrone Guthrie. Diffen's costumes made their way to Broadway in Camelot, Destry Rides Again, Funny Girl and Pippin.
Sharaff's credits include 1945's Billion Dollar Baby, 1963's Jennie, 1948's Magdalena and 1951's The King and I.
Now 30 years old, TDF is known for its TKTS half-price tickets booth and discount tickets by-mail program, but the organization's interest in costume design doesn't stop with this annual award. Theatre Development Fund houses more than 75,000 costumes and accessories, which are rented at low cost to nearly 700 not-for-profit theatres and arts groups around the country. Two years ago, the Fund even began the TDF Tutu Registry, which brings quality costumes to dance companies nationwide.
The 1999 Irene Sharaff Awards will take place March 2, 6 PM, at the Marriott Marquis Hotel ballroom in Manhattan.
-- By David Lefkowitz