2019 Recipients

2019 Recipients

26th Annual Michael Merritt Award For Excellence In Design And Collaboration

Howell Binkley , Lighting Designer

After working in the local Winston-Salem, North Carolina roadhouse beginning at age 12, Howell went on to attend East Carolina University.   All Lighting Design students had to do workshops with the student choreographers which created a lifelong love for lighting dance.  He then took a two-year break from school to work as a technician at Opryland before returning and working with LD Dennis Parichy when John Houseman’s Acting Company did a residency at ECU. Dennis hired Howell for his first out-of-school job as lighting supervisor for the company; he worked with them for two and a half years and was able to tour the world and learn more each day.   (Always striving to learn has been a huge theme in Howell Binkley’s life.)  

The company did not carry their own equipment; they had a rep plot and used the house gear at each locale, which taught Howell a lot about the road, about lighting and about dealing with crews, with people, and with problems.  Later, he worked for four and a half years as lighting supervisor for the Paul Taylor Dance Company, working under LD Jennifer Tipton who was instrumental in educating him in his beloved field of Lighting Design.   It was there that Howell met dancer David Parsons.  Jennifer had told Howell that he needed what she had with Paul Taylor, a company of his own for which to design.   He and David Parsons became great friends, took their few little pennies and in 1986, birthed PARSONS DANCE; thankfully, the company is still going strong.  In the past 33 years, Howell has designed over 85 pieces for Dave’s company.   

Howell Binkley has always considered himself a sculptor of sorts, using light to carve out the story at hand.  He begins every single project with these three words in his mind and heart: Creativity, Collaboration and Credibility.  Howell’s  favorite thing about his life as a Lighting Designer is the remarkable opportunity to spend his days in a room with incredibly talented artists: directors, choreographers, actors, set designers, sound designers, stage crews and house staff; he is just thrilled to be a part of all of that; the layering of different crafts all in one space.  Howell’s Broadway Designs Include: Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Tempations (2019 Tony nomination), Come fromAway (2017 Tony nomination), A Bronx Tale The Musical, Hamilton (2016 Tony Award Winner, 2018 Olivier Award Winner), After Midnight (2014 Tony nomination), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (2011 Tony nomination), West Side Story (2009 Tony nomination),  Gypsy starring Patti LuPone, In the Heights (2008 Tony nomination), Jersey Boys (2006 Tony Award Winner), Avenue Q, Parade, and Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993 Tony nomination, 1993 Olivier Award Winner, 1993 Canadian Dora Award Winner). Extensive Regional and dance works include The Joffrey Ballet’s Billboards and designs for Alvin Ailey, MoMix, Peter Pucci Plus, Hubbard Street Dance, and ABT.  Howell created the lighting design for six musicals in repertory for The Kennedy Center’s Sondheim Celebration and multiple designs for The LaJolla Playhouse, The Alley Theatre, The Goodman Theatre, The Guthrie, The McCarter Theatre, The Hartford Stage, The Old Globe and The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington D.C. Howell is the Co-Founder and Resident Lighting Designer for Parsons Dance.   He was presented with the 2006 and 2016 Henry Hewes Design Awards for Jersey Boys and Hamilton. 


Heidi McMath Costume Shop Manager & Costume Designer 

Heidi McMath has been the costume shop manager at Goodman Theatre since 1990. Before working at the Goodman, she held the positions of head draper at Long Wharf Theatre and the Cleveland Play House, and was a milliner at American Players Theatre. In addition to managing the costume shop at the Goodman Theatre, she annually designs the costumes for the Goodman’s production of A Christmas Carol

Birgit Rattenborg Wise Draper & Costume Designer 

Birgit Rattenborg Wise is a costume designer, draper and teacher.   
She has designed for many of the country’s leading theatres: New York Shakespeare Theatre, The Guthrie, The Old Globe & Steppenwolf, but she calls Chicago and the Goodman Theatre her artistic home; the theatre where she has designed 36 productions and draped on hundreds of others in collaboration with many of the theatres’ leading and emerging designers, and a shop of the most talented costume technicians, all under the leadership of shop manager Heidi McMath….and, after draping on A Christmas Carol for at least 35 years, one would hope that she eventually finishes! 


Jason Lynch, Lighting Designer

Jason Lynch is a Chicago-based lighting designer for theatre, opera and dance. Credits include: Skeleton Crew (Alley Theatre); Fetch Clay, Make Man (Dallas Theater Center); Drag On, The Wild Party, A Doll’s House (upcoming), A Doll’s House, Part 2 (upcoming) (Denver Center for the Performing Arts); Lottery Day, The Interrogation of Sandra Bland, Assistant Design: How to Catch Creation and An Enemy of the People (Goodman Theatre); Hamlet (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); Associate Designer, Guards at the Taj (Steppenwolf); A Home on the Lake (Piven Theatre Workshop/Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre); The Total Bent (Haven Theatre); Sickle (Red Theater Chicago); The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 (Chicago Children’s Theatre). Other: Master Electrician/Assistant Master Electrician, Santa Fe Opera; Assistant Lighting Director, The Dallas Opera; Lighting Supervisor, Dallas Children’s Theater. Jason is a proud member of The Association of Lighting Designers. 


Jerica Hucke, Costume Technician & Manager

Jerica Hucke is a Chicago area costume technician and manager. She graduated from Independence Community College in 2010 with an Associate’s degree in theatre, and in 2012 with a BA in Theatre Design from Columbia College Chicago. She has been the resident Costume Shop Manager at The House Theatre of Chicago since 2014 and considers it her artistic home.  Jerica  has built, crafted, and shopped costumes all over the city for a myriad of theatre companies including: Court Theatre, Actor’s Gym, Lyric Opera, and now Joffrey Ballet. She has branched into film, working as a stitcher on a feature and as a wardrobe stylist for commercial shoots. She is incredibly grateful that she gets to do this for a living. 


The John Murbach Columbia College Chicago Prize

Dominique Zaragoza is a scenic designer and fabricator from San Antonio, Texas. Her most recent credits include Home/Land, directed by Catherine Slade and John Hildreth at Columbia College Chicago and serving as Technical Director for Girl in the Red Corner, directed by Elizabeth Laidlaw at Broken Nose Theatre Company.  Currently Dominique is working on a scenic design for Raveling, a devised piece by Walkabout Theater Ensemble. Dominique is honored and humbled to receive this award and would like to give a huge thank you to her mentors and family for pushing her to reach her full potential. 

The Theatre School At Depaul University Prize

Scott Tobin is a lighting designer in his 3rd year at The Theatre School at DePaul University where he has designed productions such as The WitnessOne Flea Spare and Honey Girls (May 19). His love of lighting has brought him opportunities with the Michigan Shakespeare Festival (Master Electrician), the NFL Hall of Fame Enshrinement Weekend (Intern), and architectural lighting. Scott is passionate about teaching the next generation of theatre makers, especially those in underserved communities, and hopes to continue growing as an artist through service. 

The Loyola University Chicago Prize

Lucy Whipp is a lighting designer and stage manager originally from East Lansing, Michigan. She graduated from Loyola with a BA in Theater; a minor in Women and Gender Studies.  Lucy designed lights for productions of both 1984 and Speech and Debate, for which she also served as the projection designer. She has served as Lighting designer for several showcases as well.  Lucy was the Stage Manager for several productions at Loyola, including Failure: A Love Story and Violet. In the past year she has collaborated with The Story Theatre as both a designer and stage manager. She looks forward to working in Chicago as a lighting designer and a stage manager. 

The Northwestern University Prize

Raquel Adorno is currently pursuing her MFA in Costume Design at Northwestern University. Selected credits include: (Northwestern University) The Cherry Orchard, Jane Eyre, Vinegar Tom. Second City: Unelectable You (National Tour). Strawdog Theatre Company: D.O.A., The Long Christmas Ride Home, Desperate Dolls. Lakeside Shakespeare Theatre: Coriolanus, Winter’s Tale, Cymbeline. WildClaw Theatre: Motel 666, Bailiwick Chicago: Murder Ballad, Princess Mary Demands Your Attention, CARRIE: The Musical. Pride Films and Plays: Angry Fags (Steppenwolf Garage) The Submission, Songs from an Unmade Bed, Step Up Productions: Barefoot in the Park, Crimes of the Heart, Dead Accounts, Darlin’, The BenchMark. Runcible Theatre Company: A Number, Scenes from an Execution.  

The University of Illinois Chicago Prize

Emily Santiago graduates from the UIC School of Theatre and Music with a degree in theatrical production, focusing on makeup and wig design. While at UIC, Emily studied abroad in Florence where she learned about jewelry design, ceramics and other fine arts. Emily recently served as the associate costume designer as well as wig and makeup designer for Rome Sweet Rome, a collaboration with the Q Brothers and UIC. This summer Emily will be Wig Master at the Ohio Light Opera.  Emily would like to thank all of her professors for their support, encouragement and always inspiring her to work hard. She is looking forward to the opportunities and challenges ahead. E


The Michael Philippi Prize For Best Exhibit: Professional Designer

Kerry Lee Chipman, Scenic and Mask Designer

Kerry Lee Chipman is a freelance scenic designer and the Assistant Professor of Scenic Design at Ball State University.  She completed her undergraduate degree in Performance and Production at Fordham College at Lincoln Center.  After graduating, she lived and worked in New York for several years as a freelance scenic designer, as well as a scenic carpenter and stagehand prior to attending the University of Tennessee-Knoxville for her MFA in Scenic Design.

New York designs include: That Which Isn’t and Strays at the Brick Theatre, Coney at the New Ohio Theater, Life of Galileo at the Kehoe Theatre, Time is the Mercy of Eternity at the West End Theater, Departures and The Most Wonderful Love at the Access Theater, Lascivious Something, Hoodoo Love, and Girl. for the 2006 Mentor Project at the Cherry Lane Theater. Regional: Clarence Brown Theatre, Knoxville: The Merry Wives of Windsor, Little Shop of Horrors, Flyin’ West, Speech and Debate, and The Story of Opal. Children’s Theatre of Charlotte: The Borrowers and Pinkalicious: the Musical.  Ball State designs: As You Like it, Lift, SIC, Boeing Boeing andPride and Prejudice.

In addition to scenery, she also designs and creates masks for regional dance and theatre productions. Currently she lives in Muncie with her husband, two cats and two dogs.  When she is not designing and making things for theatre, she designs and makes things for regional markets, and looks for unique (cheap) vintage kitsch, lamps and furniture to restore.

Prize For Best Exhibit: Student Designer

Michelle Lily, Scenic DesignerMichelle Lily is a third-year scene design MFA candidate in Northwestern University’s Stage Design program. Northwestern design credits include Vinegar Tom, In the Red and Brown Water,Three Sisters, Fuente Ovejuna, and Agamemnon. Upcoming projects include Songs for Nobodies at Milwaukee Repertory. Prior to Northwestern, Michelle designed productions for New Leaf Theatre, TUTA, Emerald City, Lifeline, A Red Orchid (Youth Ensemble), the side project, Theatre Seven, Profiles, Wheaton College, and The Springfield Muni. Michelle is the co-founder of Rabbit Hole, a Chicago-based immersive game design company, where she co-wrote and designed After the Death Card, Lights Out, and Sender Unknown.