Sarah Nash Gates

Sarah Nash Gates


Read a Memoriam of Sarah Nash Gates

Your earliest memories of the Institute?

I attended the 1976 Conference in Anaheim at the suggestion of the TD at the college where I was teaching. I had never heard of USITT, but the college would pay for the trip, so off I went. I was thrilled to see and in some cases meet such noted authors as Harold Burris Meyer, Oren Parker, and Mordecai Gorelik! And of course Ed Kook. I attended a meeting of a “Costume Interest Group” and found 100+ people crowded into the meeting room. A lively conversation revealed a group eager to make things happen. Imagine the shock when President Richard Arnold told us we could NOT be “An Interest Group”. And then the cheer as he continued – You MUST be a Commission! Yes, it was the birth of the Costume Design & Technology Commission and I was hooked on USITT.

Favorite USITT memory?

It is not possible to have only one. Here are some serious highlights:

  • Riding a horse into the Banquet as President in Wichita
  • The PQ in 1983 (learning to play menu darts with Pine and MacKay) and 1987 trips, and 91, 95, 99. These included many performances including a visit to the theatre collective Gardzienice in Poland where we witnessed a performance in a small barn lit entirely by candles stuck in loaves of bread.
  • Dinner at Josef Svoboda’s home where he and Helmut Grosser reminisced over their many collaborations.
  • The friendships forged in lengthy Finance Committee meetings, and Board meetings.
  • Getting to know so many people outside of my usual world – Consultants, Business people from across the profession, code specialists, engineers, etc.

Short list of career highlights:

  • Executive Director of the University of Washington School of Drama 1994 – 2014.
  • President of the University/Resident Theatre Association 2007 -2010
  • President of USITT 1991 – 1994
  • Freelance Costume Designs for: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pennsylvania Opera Theatre, Seattle Opera, 5th Avenue Theatre, ACT Seattle, Denver Center, a couple of  Bus and Truck tours (Showboat twice in 12 months!), Seattle Children’s Theatre, and some memorable designs at the UW – Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Magic Flute.
  • Designs included in the 1987 and 1991 US Exhibit to the Prague Quadrennial.
  • Teaching gigs at Stephens College, SUNY Fredonia and Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus Clown College.
  • Member National Theatre Conference

Short list of your involvement in the Institute:

  • First woman and first costumer to serve as USITT President 1991 -1994.
  • Multiple terms Board of Directors 1980 - 1990
  • Chair of the Finance Committee 1984 - 1990
  • Lead USITT delegation to the OISTAT World Congress in Caracas
  • OISTAT Scenography Commission meetings in Seoul, Helsinki/Stockholm (included first visit to Drottningholm! Talk about a sacred space!)
  • Co-Chair Costume Symposium 1987
  • Member Awards Committee, Nominations Committee
  • Co-Founder of Young Designer’s Forum
  • Founder’s Award 1995


If you were to make a short list of the memorable USITT characters that have made a difference to you, who would they be?

Here again it is almost impossible to list everyone – I am bound to leave someone out!

My chief USITT mentors are Richard Arnold and Joel Rubin who helped me learn both USITT and OISTAT history and navigate my early years of USITT membership.

Significant colleagues/collaborators Chris Kaiser, Arnold Aronson, 

Friends, Friends, Friends: Pat MacKay, Tim Kelly, Leon Brauner, Bob Benson, Rick Stephens, Joy Emery, the Brockman brothers, Eric Fielding, Randy Earle, Dick Devin, Louis Bradfield


Anything you want to say about being a Fellow?

It is a great honor to be recognized by ones colleagues/peers. I always have felt that my election in 1989 was a touch premature – but I have tried to be worthy of the honor ever since!


Anything you'd like to add about what the USITT means to you personally?

It is a unique place where you can learn a great deal, meet many interesting, helpful and fun people, have unique experiences (touring St. Paul’s in London with Oren Parker listening to him think about how to draft “the sucker” or Millia Davenport talk about visiting the pyramids and working with Robert Edmund Jones) and perhaps most importantly, help others do the same.

One of my favorite things to do is attend the sessions which highlight the careers of our Distinguished Achievement Award Winners. It doesn’t matter what their specialty is. What matters is their passion and dedication to art and industry of theatre.