Martin Pakledinaz, Tony-Winning Costume Designer, Is Dead

By Robert Simonson
July 8, 2012

Tony Award winner Martin Pakledinaz, who for two decades was among the most sought-after costume designers on Broadway, died the morning of July 8. He was 58 and had been suffering from cancer.



Mr. Pakledinaz fabricated costumes for classics (Hedda Gabler, The Father, Hamlet, Summer and Smoke) and modern plays (Golden Child, Cellini), but was perhaps best known for his vibrant work on musicals like the 1999 Broadway revival of Kiss Me, Kate and Thoroughly Modern Millie, for which he won a Tony Award in 2002.

He was a particular favorite of director-choreographer Kathleen Marshall, who called on him to lend the appropriate period fizz on Broadway revivals of Wonderful Town, Grease, The Pajama Game and Anything Goes, as well as the new musical using old Gershwin songs, Nice Work If You Can Get It.

Actors were happy when being clothed by Mr. Pakledinaz. His costumes, while keeping within the parameters of the time period in which the action was set, typically took to the styles of that period one or two additional steps toward the flamboyant, while never crossing the line into cartoonishness.

He seemed particularly at home with fantastical storylines, such as those in the whimsical Millie, the Mark Twain farce Is He Dead?, the hyper-theatrical demimonde of Kiss Me, Kate, and The Life's 1970s Times Square world of pimps and streetwalkers. That said, he could be understated, as in the recent Broadway revivals of The Normal Heart and Man and Boy, Theatre for a New Audience's lauded revival of Harley Granville-Barker's Waste, and the much-awarded 2005 Signature Theatre Company revival of The Trip to Bountiful.

He worked frequently for the Roundabout Theatre Company, where he was championed early on by artistic director Todd Haimes, who, Mr. Pakledinaz once said, "liked my brain."

He was nominated for Tony Awards ten times, for The Life, Golden Child, Kiss Me, Kate, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Pajama Game, Gypsy, Blithe Spirit, Anything Goes and Nice Work If You Can Get It. He won for Millie and Kate. He won an Obie Award in 1999 for his swinging, club-scene-like costumes for a CSC production of Moliere's The Misanthrope starring Uma Thurman and Roger Rees.

He worked widely in regional theatre, winning a Joseph Jefferson Award for Pal Joey at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago. He also worked extensively in opera, designing productions at the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, as well as opera houses in Seattle, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Sante Fe, Houston, Toronto, Salzburg, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Helsinki and Gothenburg. He worked extensively with Mark Morris in the dance world.

Martin Pakledinaz was born in Sterling Heights, MI, one of seven sons, Sept. 1, 1953, to James Pakledinaz and Dorothy Pakledinaz. His father worked in the model-making division of General Motors. He later joked that he learned that if he was going to draw a picture of a woman in costume, he better pose her in front of a Ford.

He became interested in theatre when a teenager. Initially, he had dreams of becoming an actor, pursuing performing at Wayne State University. A teacher dissuaded him from persisting in that path. He entered the world of New York costume design doing sketches for the noted designer Theoni V. Aldredge. After years of executing Aldredge's ideas, he said it took a couple years to come upon his own style. He cut his teeth as a designer on productions at The York Theatre, New York Shakespeare Festival, McCarter Theatre and Roundabout Theatre Company in the 1980s.

In addition to his contributions as a designer, Mr. Pakledinaz was a generous contributor to countless charities and funds, including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Actors Fund. He also taught on the graduate level at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, sharing his knowledge, talent and advice with future generations of designers.

He is survived by six brothers and one sister, nine nieces and nephews, and his godson, Robert Gabriel Hill-Guarino.

Private funeral services will be held in Michigan. A community memorial will be announced in the late fall.

Donations may be made to The Martin Pakledinaz Scholarship, NYU Tisch School of the Arts, 721 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003.

View highlights of Pakledinaz's designs for Broadway:

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Chuck Cooper and Felicia Finley in The Life, 1997
Photo by Carol Rosegg