Yale School of Drama's Nicholas Christiani Wins 2014 USITT 'Golden Hammer' Award

Yale School of Drama's Nicholas Christiani Wins 2014 USITT 'Golden Hammer' Award

Scenic technician Nicholas Christiani, who will graduate from the Yale School of Drama in May, is the winner of the 2014 Berhard R. Works- Frederick Buerki "Golden Hammer" Scenic Technology Award from USITT, the United States Institute for Theatre Technology.

Christiani helped construct a 34-foot-diameter stage turntable for the set of Broadway's War Horse, the three telescoping towers in the musical Aladdin, and the choir pew for the touring production of Sister Act, among other work.

He is among 11 winners of USITT's 2014 Young Designers & Technicians Awards, which include the Golden Hammer. The awards will be presented at USITT's Annual Conference & Stage Expo March 26-29 in Fort Worth, which draws 5,000 people from the world of theatrical design and technology.

The YD&T Awards are sponsored by industry leaders to recognize excellence among young designers and technicians in production, sound, lighting, costumes, makeup, stage management, set design, and scenic technology. Winners are nominated by USITT members and chosen by a panel of experts in each field.

Prof. Ben Sammler, Chair of Yale School of Drama's Technical Design and Production Department, nominated Christiani for the Golden Hammer.

Christiani will receive his MFA in technical design and production from Yale in May. He received his bachelor's degree in theatrical production arts from Ithaca College in 2008.

Christiani's portfolio includes many scenic elements he helped build for Hudson Scenic Studio, the renowned New York company that engineers the annual New Year's Eve Ball Drop in Times Square. (See a photo of Christiani installing Waterford crystals on the ball here.) Hudson Scenic entrusted him with the work on War Horse, Aladdin, and Sister Act, among others.

At Yale Repertory Theatre, Christiani built a set for Werner Fassbinder's In a Year With 13 Moons with a pumping mechanism and spouts that allowed it to "rain blood" onstage, Sammler said.

"Nick has continued to learn and grow at an astounding place, and stands alone at the top of his class," Sammler said.

The Frederick A. Buerki Golden Hammer Award was established in 1998 by USITT Fellow Bernhard R. Works in memory of University of Wisconsin theatre design professor Fred Buerki, who literally wrote the book on theatre technology. (Stagecraft for Nonprofessionals, University of Wisconsin Press.)

The adjudicators who selected Christiani called his portfolio "impressive" and "exciting." "Great stuff," one wrote. "Hope we get a chance to work together someday."

Christiani said he was "thrilled" to learn he won the award, which fellow Yale MFA grad Dan Perez won last year.

"I'd like to give thanks to the people who have trained and mentored me through my education and career, the faculty and staff at the Yale School of Drama, especially Ben Sammler and Alan Hendrickson, Colin Stewart at Ithaca College, and all the great people at Hudson Scenic Studio," he said.

Christiani will receive a $1,000 cash prize and free registration to the USITT Conference & Stage Expo, where he and the 10 other YD&T winners will be honored on opening night. During the four-day event, they will be able to meet with their award sponsors, network with industry leaders and peers, and participate in some of the 200 workshops, meetings, and activities in Fort Worth.

USITT, the non-profit association for backstage professionals, provides year-round training, networking, awards, information-sharing, and resourcing of theatrical products and services. For more information, please visit www.usitt.org.

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