CMU Drama Faculty Win 2016 TDF/Irene Sharaff Awards
Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama faculty members Susan Tsu, the Bessie F. Anathan Professor of Costume Design, and Suttirat Larlarb, an associate professor of costume design, have a lot in common.
Both women feel passionately about their work as costume designers and educators and both have cited their fathers as strong models of a work ethic that has propelled both to the top of their field.
Now, both have won Theatre Development Fund Irene Sharaff Awards; an honor among the highest in American costume design.
The TDF Irene Sharaff Awards were founded in 1993 as a vehicle to recognize excellence in the field of costume design. Previous winners include Ann Roth (A 1953) who won the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2000 and Brian Hemesath (A 1997) who won the Young Master Award last year.
This year Tsu has been awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Larlarb has been awarded the Young Master Award.
"Of course it's a great honor," Tsu said. "When I think about the number of incredibly talented designers in this country and some of the people I'm following and the number of designers I've been influenced and inspired by, I feel even more honored to be recognized in this way."
Tsu's career has spanned over 40 years and has included designs for such hits as the original production of "Godspell" and "The Joy Luck Club." Many of those years she has spent as an educator as well, teaching at Boston University and the University of Texas at Austin, before returning home to her alma mater Carnegie Mellon.
"Education is a key to the future and an important thing for us all to maintain and keep healthy," Tsu said. "My work as a designer and teacher actually feed each other, I don't believe you can be as effective a teacher if you aren't designing — that feeds your soul, and a full soul leaves more to pass on to students. One of the best kept secrets is that the teacher learns just as much from students as they do from us."
Larlarb, whose award-winning career includes working on the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics and designing costumes for recent biopic "Steve Jobs" and acclaimed Broadway musical "Finding Neverland," felt a similar call as Tsu to educate the next generation of costumers.
"When I came back from the Olympics, after doing something that massive and that impactful on the world, it almost seemed greedy to just keep building my career without giving something back," Larlarb said. "Part of me was coming to teaching because I wanted to try to instill the things I'd seen and learned and observed and challenge students to be better."
The School of Drama is exceedingly proud to have two such talented women as a part of its community. Tsu's and Larlarb's influence is felt strongly in students' work in the classroom and in productions. In fact, two CMU School of Drama costume students won United States Institute for Technical Theater Young Designer and Technician Awards this year.
"The Irene Sharaff Awards represent the pinnacle of achievement within the international costume design community," said Peter Cooke, OAM, Ph.D. and head of the School of Drama. "Awardees Susan Tsu and Suttirat Larbarb are two genuine 'wonders' of the costume pantheon. We are thrilled to have them at CMU as visionary teachers, sage advisors and trusted friends."
Tsu and Larlarb will be presented with their awards in a ceremony in New York City on May 20.