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USA 829 Members Win Michael Merritt Awards in Chicago

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The following winners are members  of USA 829:

25th Annual Merritt Award Winner:

Costume Designer Toni-Leslie James has designed costumes nationally for every entertainment venue; feature film, television, opera, dance, industrials, regional theatre and Broadway.  For Broadway,  she has designed Come From Away (Hewes Design Award, Drama Desk Nomination), August Wilson’s Jitney (Tony® and Drama Desk Nomination),  Lucky Guy, The Scottsboro Boys, Finian's Rainbow,  Chita Rivera: The Dancer's Life, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom,  King Hedley II, One Mo’ Time, The Wild Party, Marie Christine, Footloose, The Tempest, Twilight Los Angeles 1992,  Angels in America: Millennium Approaches  & Perestroika, Chronicle of a Death  Foretold, and Jelly’s Last Jam.

Off-Broadway,  she has designed multiple productions for the  Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons, Second Stage, SoHo Rep, Lincoln Center Theatre, the New York Theatre Workshop, Classic Stage Co., and over 15 productions for the NY City Center Encores series. Regionally, her work was seenin productions for La Jolla Playhouse, Steppenwolf, Hartford Stage, The Long Wharf, Baltimore Center Stage, The Old Globe, Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, Cleveland Playhouse, Cincinnati Playhouse, The Round House Theatre, Seattle Rep, The Shakespeare Theatre, Berkley Rep, The Alliance Theatre, Goodspeed Playhouse, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, ACT, Denver Theater Center, and Crossroads Theatre Co. Internationally, she has designed for the Young Vic, the Royal Court Theater and the Chichester Theater Festival in the UK, the Athens Greek Festival, and Radio Dansmark TV in Denmark. She was the head costume designer for “Whoopi” on NBC, and the CBS soap opera,“As the World Turns,” as well as having designed four specials for WNET/13’s Great Performances series. Her design work has been displayed in nine major museum and college exhibitions including a 2006 retrospective of her career at The American Museum of Natural History "Designing Woman: Inside the Life And Career of Costume Designer, Toni-Leslie James,"  the  Lincoln Center Performing  Arts Library 2008-2009 exhibition "Curtain Call: A Century of Designing Women", and “More Life! Angels in America at Twenty” at The Museum of Performance & Design in San Francisco, CA. in 2010-2011.

Ms. James has garnered a total of thirty-five costume design nominations or awards for her contributions to various theatrical productions including two Tony Award nominations, five Drama Desk nominations, two Hewes Design Awards and three additional Hewes nominations, four Audelco Award nominations, two N.A.A.C.P Image Award nominations, three Lucille Lortel nominations, The Helen Hayes Award nomination, The Denver Theatre Center Ovation Award nomination, The LA Drama-Logue Award, The FANY Award, The Connecticut Critics Circle Award, the Irene Sharaff Young Masters Award For Costume Design Excellence, the 2009 Obie Award for Sustained Costume Design Excellence, and the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival Outstanding Costume Designer of The Year Award, and the 2017 LILY Award for contributions  in design for the American Theater. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Sewanee  (The University of the South) in January 2018, and selected as a Richmond Times-Dispatch “Person of the Year” in 2017. In March of 2018, Ms. James was awarded a citation for her contribution to the arts from the Richmond City Council. 

Ms. James is an Associate Professor and Head of Design at Virginia Commonwealth University and received her BFA in Theatre from The Ohio State University.


The Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award Winner:

Projection Designer Rasean Davonte Johnson is a video artist, filmmaker, and theatrical designer whose work has be seen at museums,  galleries, and  various stages  across the country. An Ohio native, in his first foray into moving image  he  produced  The Price of  Pride, which  was featured  in the  2008  Columbus International  Film Festival.

Upon moving to  Chicago, he  found himself deeply involved in the video and theatrical community working on various projects at CollaborAction and American Theater  Company.  Previous theatre work includes collaborations with numerous  institutions including Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Long Wharf Theatre, ArtsEmerson, the McCarter Theatre Center, Yale Repertory Theatre, Alliance Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Group, The Ningbo Song and Dance Company, Yale Opera, Teatro Vista. Timeline Theatre Company, The Hypocrites, Porchlight Music Theatre, Halcyon Theatre, Redtwist Theatre, and many more. In addition to theatrical work his exploration of installations allowed him to create and work on projects such as Living Sculpture as a part of LUX: Ideas Through Lights and the Beinecke Rare Books Library, A Night of Wonder with Pornchanok Kanchanabanca at the Yale School of Drama, Passenger presented at the Bridgeport Film Festival, The Ballad of Lula Del Ray 2.0 with Manual Cinema for the opening of the Logan Arts Center, and Behind the Whites at the Yale Art Museum. He has earned  a degree in theatre from the Ohio Stage University and an MFA in projection design from the Yale School of Drama. Additionally, he has lectured and led workshops on design at various schools including Yale University, Boston University, Syracuse University, The Theatre School at DePaul, and the Ohio State University.

Congratulations to all!

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