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Female designers you should know: The ladies who create Broadway

March 29, 2022 by Ayanna Prescod
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Woman have been transporting audiences to new worlds on Broadway for decades. From designing the sound in a new musical to reimagining a set design for a play revival, the ladies who shape the look and feel of Broadway theatre are crucial, but hardly acknowledged. Though noticeable progress has been made in recent times, women are still vastly underrepresented in design positions on Broadway.

Trailblazing designers such as Ann Roth (costume), Jennifer Tipton (lighting), and Christine Jones (scenic) are just some of the designers who’ve worked on Broadway. If you see To Kill a Mockingbird (featuring designs by Roth and Tipton) or Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (with a set by Jones) on stage right now, you’re witnessing their stunning work for yourself.

Here are a few women who walk in the footsteps of these renowned designers, creating the sights and sounds you see on Broadway.

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Twi McCallum: sound designer

Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Twi McCallum is the first female sound designer of color to work on Broadway. In 2021, she made her Broadway debut creating the sound design for the church comedy Chicken & Biscuits at Circle in the Square. Before breaking that glass ceiling, she worked on notable plays like School Girls; or, the African Mean Girls Play, A Commercial Jingle for Regina Comet, The Last of the Love Letters, and more. McCallum, a former student of Howard University and a graduate of Yale School of Drama’s one-year sound program, has quickly become the sound designer to watch.

Jessica Paz: sound designer

Jessica Paz’s work, in collaboration with Nevin Steinberg, on Hadestown led her to became the first woman in history to be nominated for a Tony Award for Best Sound Design of a Musical and the first woman to win a sound design Tony Award. Before Paz, Cricket S. Myers was the only other woman to receive a nomination for her sound design work, on Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo in 2011. Paz also recently did the sound design for the hit Off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors.

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Linda Cho: costume designer

Tony Award-winning costume designer Linda Cho has worked in the theatre industry for over a decade. From 2007 to 2011, Cho served as the American Costume Design Curator for the International Prague Quadrennial. In 2014, she won the Antoinette Perry and Henry Hewes Design Award for the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and in 2017 she was nominated for Tony, Outer Critics’ Circle, and Drama Desk Awards for Best Costume Design for the musical Anastasia.

Additionally, Cho has received the prestigious TDF/Irene Sharaff Young Master Award, the Henry Hewes Design Award, and the Ruth Morley Design Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women. This season on Broadway, Cho is billed as the costume designer for Take Me Out and POTUS: or, Behind Every Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying To Keep Him Alive, both set to open in April.

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Get POTUS tickets on TodayTix.

Toni Leslie-James: costume designer 

Toni Leslie-James has created some of the most iconic costume designs for stage, television, and film. Having worked on Broadway shows like Jitney, Amazing Grace, and The Scottsboro Boys, James is one of the most prolific designers in Broadway history. She was awarded The Irene Sharaff Young Masters Award and the 2009 Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Costume Design. This Broadway season, she has worked on a number of Broadway shows, including Thoughts of A Colored Man, Flying Over Sunset, Paradise Square, and Birthday Candles. James is also currently an assistant professor of design and the Yale Repertory Theatre resident costume designer for the Yale School of Drama.

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Get Birthday Candles tickets on TodayTix.

Rachel Hauck: set designer

While Rachel Hauck has mastered set designs for a number of Broadway, Off-Broadway, and regional shows, her Tony-Award winning creation for Hadestown might be her most notable. During the 2018/19 season, Hauck became the first female set designer to create the sets for both a Broadway play and musical: Besides Hadestown, she set-designed Heidi Schreck’s Tony-nominated play What the Constitution Means to Me. Rachel was the Resident Set Designer at the O’Neill Playwrights Conference for 10 years, and in 2012, she received the Lilly Award for Excellence in Scenic Design. Hauck’s latest project is the set design for How I Learned To Drive, prepared to open in April.

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Miriam Buether: set designer

Miriam Buether, a German designer, studied stage design at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design in London and costume design at the Akademie für Kostüm Design in Hamburg. She is most known for her gorgeous work in London’s West End, having been nominated twice for the Olivier Award and winning the Evening Standard Award, Critics’ Circle Award, Hospital Club Creative Award, and the Linbury Prize for Stage Design for her body of work. However, her recent scenic work for To Kill a Mockingbird, King Lear, Three Tall Women and A Doll’s House, Part 2, among others, shows that she is a woman to watch on Broadway, too.

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