With the wave of the COVID-19 pandemic blowing over, the theater industry – which has endured a lockdown for over a year – is gradually opening up again. Many theater designers never stopped brewing up new designs and concepts and are eagerly awaiting the chance to realize their art in front of a live audience again. One of them is Manhattan-based scenic and costume designer Christian Fleming, whose designs have caught the attention of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, Inc. (USITT)’s award panel. Fleming was recognized as an emerging designer to watch with the 2021 USITT Scene Design Award, sponsored by Rose Brand.
Christian Fleming is an emerging scenic and costume designer who holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Drama. Readying to make his mark on the scene, Fleming graduated into the pandemic crippled industry. However, his love for theater has remained unwavering as he waited out the storm and is excited to introduce his designs to the industry and audiences alike. “The industry shutdown offered the time to reflect and discover who I want to be as an artist, the art that I am excited to create, and how I can return as a valuable ally to help advocate for systemic change,” Christian said. “Having a great organization like USITT recognize my work has been a wonderful affirmation during this shutdown. It encourages me to keep forging ahead despite the uncertainty in the industry. I know for sure that the future is bright,” he continued.
Fleming’s work has been lauded by many notable people in the industry. In support of his bright potential and professionalism, Tony-nominated Broadway actress Melissa Errico attested that, “Christian has every asset: attention to detail, total calm in a storm, openness to ideas far afield but healthy to explore, and a strong sense of what is entertaining and moving.” Fleming is sure on the path to success as he has proven himself capable of bringing directors’ visions to life with his talents. Director Jen Wineman also has nothing but glowing remarks about the budding designer, saying, “Christian’s very smart about how to execute seemingly impossible ideas onstage, and because his imagination is so developed, he’s able to work with his collaborators as a true artistic partner.”
Fleming’s work has recently been seen at Pittsburgh Festival Opera (Rusalka), Pittsburgh CLO (Game On), and Pittsburgh Opera (Afterwards: Mozart’s Idomeneo Reimagined). He also had his work exhibited at the USITT Virtually Anywhere Conference and Design Showcase West.
With Broadway set to reopen soon to return the theater industry’s color and flair, Fleming hopes that the entire industry is structured better to allow everyone to thrive. “I hope that this shutdown will lead to a revitalized return where the industry addresses and eliminates the systemic barriers and inequalities that have created such hardships for the working artists that make the industry function,” Fleming noted.
Receiving this year’s USITT Scene Design Award is primed to launch Fleming’s reputation as an emerging designer to watch. As his career continues to grow, we look forward to what he designs next.