Scenic, lighting, and sound designer Justin Townsend is the recipient of the second annual USITT Rising Star Award, sponsored by LDI2006 and Live Design magazine. The Rising Star Award recognizes excellence and artistic achievement in the areas of scenic, lighting, sound, and projection design, or the convergence of these design disciplines. The award is given at the beginning of a career to a young designer in their first four years of professional (non-academic) work, following the completion of their highest degree. The 2006 Rising Star Award will be presented at the Awards Banquet during the 2006 USITT Conference & Stage Expo in Louisville, KY, on Saturday, April 1, 2006.
Townsend, age 31, holds a BA from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and an MA from the California Institute of the Arts. He has assisted top name designers including LD Christopher Akerlind and set designers Chris Barreca and Doug Stein, as well as designed the lights, sets, and sound for numerous theatre and dance performances, including quite a few at the Dorset Theatre Festival in Vermont. His New York credits include La MAMA and the Ohio Theatre, while regional credits range from Playmakers Rep in Chapel Hill, NC, to Hartford Stage in Connecticut. He is the co-founder of the company TENT, and worked on the creation of their shows in both Portland, ME, and in Los Angeles. He has served as guest lecturer at various universities as well as a teaching assistant at Cal Arts, and has won several awards for his work, and was named a young designer to watch in Entertainment Design in 2004. Images illustrating his work can be seen at www.justintownsend.com.
One recommendation for Townsend’s candidature for the USITT Rising Star Award came from LD Christopher Akerlind: “It is unmistakable that he combines the curiosity, talents, and abilities required of a young designer ready to build a career as an interesting and innovative theatre artist. He possesses an increasingly rare quality of deep and devoted commitment to theatre, opera, and dance in all their various forms.”
Scenic designer Chris Barreca was equally enthusiastic in his recommendation of Townsend: “Justin is both a director’s designer and a visual artist. He is the kind of designer that likes to be in rehearsal at the director’s side, creating. He functions like a dramaturg for directors. He sees the design as growing out of a strong vision of the performance, as an organic part of the whole. Justin has a mature mental and physical commitment that has allowed him to design difficult projects. You rarely see someone work so hard and with such dedication.”
John S. Uthoff, USITT president, said that the Rising Star Award sponsored by LDI 2006 and Live Design has produced exactly the result envisioned when it was created several years ago: "Justin Townsend not only exemplifies the type of professional achievements which can be attained early in a career, he is expanding the horizons on what is possible within the profession."
David Johnson, associate publisher and editorial director of Live Design, notes, “We are extremely pleased that Justin Townsend is this year’s winner of the USITT Rising Star Award. We knew he was someone to keep an eye on when named one of our Young Designers To Watch in Entertainment Design two years ago. This Award confirms our interest in his work.”
LDI and Live Design endowed USITT’s Rising Star Award in perpetuity, with the winner receiving a $1,000 prize. For additional information about the Rising Star Award, contact USITT at www.usitt.org or 1-800-938-7488 or David Johnson, associate publisher and editorial director of Live Design: firstname.lastname@example.org .