Susan Tsu will receive the 2024 Distinguished Achievement Award for Costume Design from USITT.

February 9, 2024
By Shannon Musgrave

Each year, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) honors practitioners of theater design and technology who excel in their fields. This year, the 66th annual conference and stage expo will take place in Seattle, Washington, where five artists from the School of Drama will be recognized for their exemplary work.

Professor Susan Tsu will receive the Distinguished Achievement Award for Costume Design. The Distinguished Achievement Awards honor individuals who have established meritorious career records in specific fields of expertise in any area of design or technology in the performing arts or entertainment industry. 

Before she began her illustrious career as a costume designer, Tsu earned both her BFA and MFA degrees right here at Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama. She went on to design at over 45  theater companies across the U.S. and in venues all over the world. She headed the costume programs at Boston University and the University of Texas at Austin before returning to the School of Drama as a faculty member in 2003.

Tsu has been affiliated with USITT since her early days as a young designer, when she was invited to be part of the U.S. delegation traveling to China to give a presentation about the state of theater in the United States. Since then, “USITT’s International activities have changed my life,” she says.

One of the most impactful USITT programs Tsu has been part of is the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Space and Design (PQ), for which she has served as a helper, co-Curator or Artistic Director since the early 1990s. 

“In my view, the PQ  is the single most important activity that USITT engages in, as the sponsor of the USA National and Emerging exhibitions in Prague,” Tsu says. “We are somewhat removed, in the USA, from what is going on in the rest of the world, and the opportunity to introduce our theater professionals and students to the many inspiring ways in which people regard and make theater in other countries can open minds and change lives. When we learn about the creativity, hopes and fears of others, we gain knowledge and compassion, and as theater people commenting on the human condition in our productions, our voices and visions can effect change one drop at a time.”

Brant Murray

Brant Murray earned his MFA in Lighting Design from the School of Drama in 2003. Since then, he has worked in design, management, and education, from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City to his current post as Chair of Lighting Design & Technology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Murray, along with his wife Dr. Keili Camille Murray, will receive the Herbert D. Greggs Honor Award, which promotes innovative, in-depth writing about theater design and technology, for their recent article, “Placing Emotional Intelligence Development Center Stage,” in USITT’s Theatre Design & Technology magazine. 

“As a graduate student in the School of Drama, under the mentorship of Cindy Limauro, I was able to gain a deeper understanding of the world of entertainment design and creative collaboration,” Murray says. “What I teach today is based in how I was taught at Carnegie Mellon, and I am fortunate to be able to carry on that legacy for a new generation of students.”

William N. Lowe

The Rising Star Award, sponsored by LDI/Live Design, is given annually to a young professional at the beginning of their career. The award recognizes excellence and artistic achievement in scenic, lighting, sound, projection design, or a convergence of these design disciplines, and this year will be awarded to William N. Lowe, a 2020 School of Drama graduate who studied sound design. 

“I am honored to receive the Rising Star Award from USITT, Live Design, and LDI. I owe my work on the cutting edge of the entertainment industry — at the intersection of art and technology — to the unique theatrical training I received,” says Lowe.

Xotchil Musser

Recent graduate Xotchil Musser, who graduated in 2023 with an MFA in Lighting Design, is the winner of the Barbizon Lighting Company Jonathan Resnick Lighting Design Award, one of USITT’s Young Designers, Managers & Technicians (YDMT) Awards. One of Musser’s many upcoming projects includes the lighting design for “Amm(i)gone” at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. The production features a creative team of all CMU School of Drama alumni. 

Grzegorz Łabuda

Current third-year MFA Costume Design candidate Grzegorz Łabuda will also receive one of USITT’s YDMT Awards – the Zelma H. Weisfeld Costume Design & Technology Award. In 2022, Łabuda was selected for USITT’s Student Ambassador Program, which paired students with international guests at the annual conference for the opportunity to meet and discuss working in theater abroad; he was paired with Fruzsina Nagy, an internationally known Hungarian costume designer.




The 64th annual USITT conference and stage expo will be held in Seattle March 20-23, 2024. Learn more about USITT’s awards here.