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1/52 Project Supports 7 New Designers

Each of the recipients—Ebony M. Burton, Mextly Couzin, Mika Eubanks, Wilberth González, Kathy Ruvuna, Gerardo Díaz Sánchez, and Destinee Steele—will receive grants up to $15,000.

NEW YORK CITY: The 1/52 Project has selected seven early career designers to receive a total of $88,000 in grants. Now in its second year, the financial grant program founded by set designer Beowulf Boritt seeks to fund early career designers from historically excluded groups, including women, with the aim of diversifying and strengthening the Broadway design community. The project is primarily funded by designers with shows running on Broadway, who are encouraged to donate one week every year of their weekly royalties to this fund. The 1/52 Project is partnered with TheFrontOffice Foundation.

This year’s grant recipients are lighting designer Ebony M. Burton; lighting designer Mextly Couzin; costume designer Mika Eubanks; costume designer Wilberth González; sound designer Kathy Ruvuna; scenic designer Gerardo Díaz Sánchez; and hair/wigs/makeup designer Destinee Steele. Applicants were chosen based on talent, creativity, innovation, and potential for future excellence in the theatrical profession. Each of the recipients will receive grants up to $15,000. An awards reception for the grantees will be held on Wed., Sept. 27 at West Bank Café’s Beechman Theatre, sponsored by Hudson Scenic Studio.

“I am deeply grateful to the members of the Broadway community who have made this grant possible through their generous contributions, and to this year’s grant committee, who shouldered the task of reading 62 applications from talented early career designers, conducting interviews with finalists, and making the impossible decisions of who should receive these grants from among so many worthy applicants,” said Boritt in a statement. “It breaks my heart we could not give funding to all of them. We had double the number of applicants this year. As the theatre community as a whole faces grave financial challenges, I fear the financial burden falls the hardest on the talented early career artists who need some support.”

The grant criteria were created and adjudicated by a committee of professional designers including David Bengali, Amith Chandrashaker, Jiyoun Chang, Wilson Chin, Alan C. Edwards, Justin Ellington, Kai Harada, Rachel Hauck, Cookie Jordan, Sun Hee Kil, Hana S. Kim, Nikiya Mathis, Elaine McCarthy, Kimie Nishikawa, Alejo Vietti, and Anita Yavich.

“The 1/52 Project was a before and after in my professional career,” said 2022 grant recipient Stefania Bulbarella in a statement. ”I now have the funds to rent a studio to work, bring animators to work along with me as I develop different projects. I no longer have to have animators working along with me in my room, instead I have a professional setup with optimum working conditions.” Bulbarella is about to make her Broadway debut with Jaja’s African Hair Braiding.

Applications will open again in January 2024 for next year’s grants.

Ebony M. Burton is an Oakland-born, Brooklyn-based artist and lighting designer. She holds a B.A. in psychology from Oberlin College and MFA in design from NYU. Recent projects include the end/the beginning (NYLA), The Book of Lucy (Brown/Trinity),  Marie It’s Time (Minor Theater),  Mr. Burns, a post-electric play (Brown/Trinity), and various collaborations with dance performer Blaze Ferrer, including Diamond Desert Cuck and Gusher.  

Mextly Couzin was born in Baja California, México, raised in Los Angeles, and currently lives in Brooklyn. Her recent design credits include Das Rheingold  (Seattle Opera),  Merry Wives of Windsor (The Old Globe),  Incendiary (Woolly Mammoth), West Side Story (Centro de Bellas Artes Puerto Rico), Straight Line Crazy (The Shed), La Belle et la Bête (Opera Paralléle), and Tambo & Bones (Playwrights Horizons & Center Theatre Group). She holds a B.S. in pure mathematics and an MFA in lighting design from the University of California San Diego.

Mika Eubanks is a Maryland native now based in New York. Eubanks received her MFA in costume design at the Yale School of Drama. Her design credits include King Lear (St. Louis Shakespeare Festival), Lessons in Survival: 1971 (The Vineyard Theatre), The XIXth (Old Globe), Flex (Lincoln Center Theater), and Twelfth Night (Yale Repertory Theatre/Classical Theater of Harlem), for which she received the Connecticut Critic Circle Award for outstanding costume design. 

Wilberth González is a Mexican American costume designer based in NYC. Credits include costume designer for The Tempest at Shakespeare in the Park, and associate costume design on Broadway’s Moulin Rouge and Mrs. Doubtfire. He received an Emmy nomination for his ACD work in Marvel’s Moonknight, and has designed specialty costumes for HBO’s Watchman, Oceans 8, and Rupaul’s Dragrace. Upcoming work includes co-designing Real Women Have Curves at A.R.T. and The Little Mermaid in Sweden.  

Kathy Ruvuna is a New York-based sound designer and composer. Recent credits include Bernarda’s Daughters (The New Group), Amani (National Black Theatre), Dark Disabled Stories (Bushwick Starr), Circle Jerk! Live (Fake Friends), In the Southern Breeze, and Ni Mi Madre (Rattlestick Playwrights Theater). She holds a BFA in sound design from The Conservatory of Theatre Arts at Webster University and an MFA in sound design from the Yale School of Drama.

Gerardo Díaz Sánchez is a NYC-based scenic designer from Guayama, Puerto Rico. Credits include Notes on Killing… (Soho Rep),  La casa de la laguna (GALA Hispanic Theatre),  Romeo and Juliet (Two River Theater),  Pride and Prejudice (Long Wharf Theatre),  El Huracán (Yale Repertory Theater),  Twelfth Night (Two River Theater),  and TJ Loves Sally 4 Ever (JACK). Gerardo received their MFA from the Yale School of Drama, and B.A. in design from the School of Architecture at the University of Puerto Rico.  

Destinee Steele is an Orlando-based designer who has designed wigs, hair, and makeup from coast to coast. With a passion to establish equity in wig and makeup rooms across the country, she passionately serves as an advocate for actors and teaches supplementary skills to working artists. Destinee is the founder and CEO of the Beauty Menagerie LLC and counts herself honored to be awarded this grant. 

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