Prolific Broadway Costume Designer Martin Pakledinaz Dies at 58; Sutton Foster, Patti LuPone & More Share Memories

By: Jul. 08, 2012
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Two-time Tony Award-winner and prolific costume designer Martin Pakledinaz died at home this morning, July 8, 2012, after a long illness. He was 58.

Pakledinaz has designed hundreds of theater, opera, dance and film pieces during his career spanning more than 30 years.

He received Tony Awards for his work on the Broadway revival of Kiss, Me Kate and the new musical Thoroughly Modern Millie and he was honored with eight additional Tony nominations for his work on Nice Work If You Can Get It, Anything Goes (with Sutton Foster), Lend Me A Tenor, Blithe Spirit, Gypsy (with Patti LuPone), The Pajama Game, Golden Child, and The Life.

"Marty is a master," said Sutton Foster, who won Tony Awards for her two collaborations with Pakledinaz. "He is the epitome of class and taste. He designed and created the costumes I wore in Millie and Anything Goes and my characters were defined from the fabric, the seams, the details of his work, his eye. I feel honored to know him, to love him, to call him a friend and collaborator and to be graced by his talent."

Other notable Broadway work includes Man and Boy, Master Class, The Normal Heart, Is He Dead?, Grease, The Pirate Queen, Wonderful Town, The Boys From Syracuse, The Life, Anna Christie, and The Father. Among his recent Off-Broadway credits were the 2011 Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, Gordon Edelstein’s celebrated revival of The Glass Menagerie, starring Judith Ivey, and Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful, with Lois Smith, directed by Harris Yulin.

Patti LuPone, who starred in the 2008 revival of Gypsy, said of Pakledinaz: "Marty did the kindest thing. During the run, he would come into my dressing room with medals he'd purchased at the 23rd Street flea market. They were medals from all kinds of clubs for all kinds of membership or competitions. They were large and small, gaudy and delicate. I wore them proudly on my first act entrance coat. I took the medals home with me along with a fragile hanky that he also gave me and that lived in Rose's pocketbook. Marty was involved not just with fabric and silhouette but with each character he costumed. He informed my characterization without realizing it, I think. The medals sit on top of the hanky in my theatrical case along with all the other treasured mementos. I am grateful for my brief but deep experience with Marty. He's gone from our world too soon. Broadway is less talented."

Pakledinaz’s work in dance, both modern and classical, is led by his long collaboration with Mark Morris and the Mark Morris Dance Group and other classic companies, including such works as The Hard Nut, Delibe’s Sylvia, produced for the San Francisco Ballet, and many one-act pieces, including “v”, Pacific, Socrates, and All Fours. He most recently designed both sets and costumes for the 2012 premiere of Don Quixote at San Francisco Ballet. Other work in ballet includes costumes for Helgi Tomasson’s triumphant San Francisco-based The Nutcracker, performed annually at the War Memorial Opera House, and now also a staple of Great Performances on PBS. His work with Kent Stowell and Francia Russell of Pacific Northwest Ballet includes Cinderella, and a new design, sets and costumes, of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

"Martin was the best possible collaborator: eager, educated, versatile, savvy, pragmatic, imaginative," said choreographer Mark Morris, a frequent collaborator. "He was also the most gracious, appreciative, supportive and kind friend that one could ever desire. His contribution to his field was vast, varied and very important. His death is not a surprise, but it is deeply regrettable for those of us who now find ourselves deprived of his marvelous company. He had a great laugh."

Work in opera includes the recent Juilliard production of The Bartered Bride, directed by Stephen Wadsworth, as well as Mr. Wadsworth’s re-mounting of Iphigenie en Tauride with Placido Domingo, Susan Graham, and Paul Groves, recently released as part of the Met Live in HD series. He had an enduring collaboration with the renowned director Peter Sellars with whom he created new productions in Spain, Salzburg, Paris, New York and at the Santa Fe Opera. He recently designed the world premiere of The Golden Ticket for frequent collaborator James Robinson and the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, based on Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory.”

Pakledinaz was born on September 1, 1953, to James Pakledinaz and Dorothy Pakledinaz. He grew up in Sterling Heights, Michigan with his sister and six brothers. At Wayne State University, in Detroit, Michigan. he focused on directing and, ultimately, designing. Following his graduation in 1975, he was accepted to the masters program at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor.

Upon moving to New York in 1977, he worked for costume designers Barbara Matera and Theoni V. Aldredge, an influential mentor whom he often called his "mother-in-design." He thanked both these women, along with his mother, in his 2002 Tony Award acceptance speech.

In addition to his contributions as a designer, Pakledinaz was generous to his community in other ways, as witnessed by his contributions to countless charities and funds including Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and the Actor's Fund. He also taught on the graduate level at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, sharing his knowledge, talent and advice with future generations of designers.

He is survived by six brothers and one sister, nine nieces and nephews, and his godson, Robert Gabriel Hill-Guarino. Private funeral services will be held in Michigan. A community memorial will be announced in the late fall.

Donations may be made to:
The Martin Pakledinaz Scholarship.
NYU Tisch School of the Arts
721 Broadway, 3rd Floor, New York, NY 10003

For more about Martin, visit