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Lester Polakov received the USITT Distinguished Achievement Award in Scene Design during the 1999 Conference held in Toronto, Ontario Canada. Presenting the award is Nadine Charlsen of the Scene Design Commission.

Photo/USITT Archive


Lester Polakov

Barbara E.R. Lucas
Sightlines Editor

Lester Polakov, a set, costume, and lighting designer for hundreds of productions, died May 22, 2006. His work included film, industrial shows, summer stock, and educational theatre in addition to his work on and off Broadway.

Among the numerous honors Mr. Polakov received were the USITT Distinguished Achievement Award in Scene Design in 1999, and, most recently, the Theatre Development Fund/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award in April 2006. He was an active All Classification member of USA-829 for more than six decades, joining the Local in 1938, and retired as a Life Member in 1994.

During the 1999 Conference, Mr. Polakov fascinated those who attended a special session, Lester Polakov: Stories Beyond the Textbook. His recollections of his work also covered the founding and development of the notable Lester Polakov Studio of Stage Design which later became the Studio and Forum of Scene Design. The studio employed well-known set, light, and costume designers to teach his students. His autobiography We Live to Fly Paint Again, is a moving account of his varied interests and influences.

His credits include: Call Me Mister (1946, scenic design), Crime and Punishment (1947, costume design), The Member of the Wedding (1950, scenic, costume, and lighting design), The Skin of Our Teeth (1955, scenic design), Great Day in the Morning (1962, scenic and lighting design), and Charlotte (1980, scenic design).

Mr. Polakov is survived by his wife, Mary, and three daughters, Lucy, Liza, and Jenny.

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