Previous Rising Star Award Winner Justin Townsend to Lead NYU's Department of Design for Stage & Film

February 7, 2022

Justin Townsend

NYU Tisch School of the Arts’ Dean Allyson Green announced that Justin Townsend will be leading the Department of Design for Stage and Film as Chair starting in August 2022 and will join the faculty immediately. Townsend is a Tony Award winning educator and international designer who has designed more than two hundred and fifty shows throughout his twenty-five year career. He was also the 2nd Annual Rising Star Award winner sponsored by LDI/Live Design in 2006.

Townsend will continue the legacy of renowned costume designer Susan Hilferty, who has guided the program for more than 20 years to the outstanding reputation that it holds today. Hilferty will remain on the faculty.

“NYU Tisch is the envy of the design world; the range of prolific alumni and educators and the sheer talent of the students make this a program I have admired for decades. I am deeply honored by this opportunity,” said Townsend.

“We are in a critical and thrilling moment for design education. Designers are uniquely suited to meet moments of cultural change; we think about story, audience experience, character arc, world building, and evoking an audience’s radical imagination. Technologies and aesthetics we can’t yet imagine are coming, and at NYU Tisch, a designer can link their art and growing craft with these emergent forms,” he continued.

Justin Townsend is an educator and international designer for performance. These twin vocations have formed the core of his professional identity throughout his twenty-five year career. A Tony Award winner, he has designed well over two hundred and fifty shows, spent fifteen years teaching in graduate and undergraduate settings, and served as a guest artist at educational theaters all over the country. His work thins the wall between academic and professional pursuits, allowing fundamental aspects of each to influence and inform the other. His innovations incorporate cutting-edge technology, reimagining raw theater tools, and an intimate investigation of modern aesthetics into both his career and classroom.

His professional lighting design work includes such productions as: Moulin Rouge! The Musical (Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award); Jagged Little Pill (Tony Nomination); American Psycho (Tony nomination, Drama Desk Award, Outer Critics Circle Award, Henry Hewes Award); The Humans (Tony nomination, Drama Desk Award); Here Lies Love, (Drama Desk Award, Public Theater); Vietgone, (MTC); Pretty Filthy, (Civilians); Mr. Burns, a Post Electric Play, Milk Like Sugar, (Playwrights Horizons); Odyssey, A Winter’s Tale, (Public Works at the Delacorte Theater); Venus, (Signature Theater); Unnatural Acts, Mother Courage, and Galileo (Classic Stage Company).

As a creative director, Justin collaborated with Grammy-winning recording artist Drake, designing a 50 foot tall replica of the top of the CN Tower for Drake's OvO Fest in Toronto. The two also paired up for 2017’s “Boy Meets World” European tour. Set Design work includes designs on and off Broadway as well as in the regional theater. He collaborates with directors Elena Araoz, Nancy Keystone, Lear Debessonet, and Brooke O’Harra. Justin received an Obie Award for Sustained Excellence in Lighting Design in 2014.

Since 1966, Design for Film and Stage has consistently defined and refined a unique training program, one which the industry has recognized as being on the highest level.  Alumni include set, costume, lighting and film designers Beowulf Boritt, Mark Bridges, Maria-Cristina Fusté, Molly Hughes, Mimi Lien, Bradley King, Clint Ramos, Paul Tazewell, and many more.