Costume Designer Melissa Schlachtmeyer Passes Away at 41

By: Aug. 11, 2014
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Melissa Schlachtmeyer, a costume designer for theater, dance and opera, passed away Wednesday August 6th while traveling in Florence, Italy. She was 41. The cause was complications from breast cancer.

Schlachtmeyer was a broad-based costume designer working in Opera, Dance and Theatre whose designs have been seen from the Avignon Opera House to Dance Arenas in Mexico City to LaMama E.T.C in New York. She designed for companies such as Berkshire Opera, The Limon Dance Foundation, The Pearl Theatre, Eos Orchestra, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, BalletTech, Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Center for Contemporary Opera, The Flea Theatre, and German Theatre Abroad, having designs seen in Hungary, France, and Mexico as well as throughout the U.S. She collaborated with such directors such as Daniel Fish, Sam Helfrich, Peter Kazaras, Anne Kauffman, Moritz von Stuelpnagel, Jim Simpson, and Elizabeth Swados, as well as choreographers including Jonathan Frederickson and Neta Pulvermacher. She designed for Bebe Neuwirth, Kate Burton, and Alan Cumming, among other talented performers, and taught classes in design at Fordham University, as well as designed at several universities, colleges and graduate programs.

For the last 2 years Schlachtmeyer was on the faculty of Reed College in Portland, Oregon where she taught theatre design, history of clothing, and costume design. Her most recent professional work was Trey McIntyre Project's final company presentation this summer at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Her work will also be seen in an Oregon Ballet Theatre presentation at Wolf Trap later this month.

Schlachtmeyer was nominated for a Henry Hewes award, and had degrees from Brown University and the Tisch School of the Arts. Her interests included working with physical performers and the very tribal nature of clothing.

In a December 2011 interview with The Brooklyn Rail about her design process, Schlachtmeyer said, "So when faced with a script, I guess my first question is the same question a director or any other theater artist would ask, which is where this piece lives: in the head or the heart, in the tragedy or black comedy, in social satire or in empathy."

Schlachtmeyer lived in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Jonathan Newman, a composer, and their seven-year-old daughter Amelia. Survivors also include her parents Sandra and Al Schlachtmeyer, and sister Laura.