Mon, 05/17/2021 - 5:00pm to 8:30pm

 The Michael Merritt Award, a national award unique in its emphasis on excellence in both design and collaboration, is presented annually to professional theatrical designers.

The Michael Merritt Awards announces that on Monday May 17th the award ceremony will be a virtual event that will highlight two designers who are powerhouse advocates of inclusion and equity in employment.

The Merritt Award for Design and Collaboration will be presented to Clint Ramos; Designer, Educator, Activist and Creative Producer.

He is the recipient of a TONY® Award for Best Costume Design of a Play for Eclipsed making him the first person of color to win that category. He is a current 2020 TONY® double nominee for his scenic design for Slave Play and costume design for The Rose Tattoo. Prior TONY® nominations were for his designs for Once On This Island and Torch Song.

Clint has been advocating for BIPOC theater workers for over 10 years. He was a founding member of the Off-Broadway committee that created the first collectively bargained agreement between designers and Off-Broadway theaters in history. Together, with other designers, he created Design Action which advocates for a radical shift in the landscape of American theater design. This summer, he started a scholarship for BIPOC designers and technicians that paid for their positions in programs and in unions. For The Movement Theater Company, together, with Cha See, they curated 15 early career artists for their 1Move: Des19ned By... collection - a program created to give artists an opportunity in the digital space to respond to immediate issues. He champions young BIPOC designers every day. Clint has also participated in the Broadway Mentorship for pre-college students for TDF. He sat on the board of Fierce NY which works to build leadership and power in LGBTQ+ youth of color and currently serves on the board of SLAM NY which is in the process of creating NYC's first ever sober High School. He is also on the American Theatre Wing Advisory Committee and is helping them work on a number of EDI initiatives.

You can explore Clint’s work at


The Merritt Award’s first Arts Advocate Award will be presented to Elsa Hiltner, Costume Designer, Pay Equity Activist and Director of Development.

Elsa Hiltner (she/her) a writer and organizer on pay and labor equity in theatrical design, and is a consultant for theatre companies who are working to establish pay equity. Her essays on labor and pay equity have inspired systemic change in the theatre industry, and the Theatrical Designer Pay Resource that she launched in 2018 has been used nation-wide by designers to promote pay transparency and as a tool for negotiations and better pay practices. She is a co-founder of On Our Team, which successfully organized for pay transparency on the job sites of Playbill, BroadwayWorld, and the League of Chicago Theatres, and is currently campaigning for pay transparency at  As a consultant, she works with BLVE Consults to create pay equity plans and policies that work for non-profit and for-

profit theatre companies of all sizes.  As a costume designer, her credits include Collaboraction, Silk Road Rising, Goodman Theatre, Teatro Vista, Signal Ensemble,

American Blues Theater, Steppenwolf, First Folio Theatre, Next Act Theatre, Lifeline Theatre, Windy City Playhouse, and American Theater Company among others.  She also works as Collaboraction’s director of development, where she has seen firsthand how enacting pay equity benefits a company.

You can explore more of Elsa’s work at (pay equity work) and (design work).


The Master of Ceremony for the evening will be award winning Columbian-American writer, actor, producer and mentor of fellow Latinx theatre artists Sandra Delgado.


Academic Prizes for Collaborative Design + Tech

  • The John Murbach Columbia College Chicago Prize 
  • Quinn Chisenhall, Lighting Designer

The Theatre School at DePaul University Prize

  • Mia Thomas, Costume Designer

The Northwestern University Prize

  • David Arevalo, Costume Designer

The Loyola University Chicago Prize

  • Molly Cornell, Scenic Designer + Scenic Artist

The University of Illinois at Chicago Prize

  • Gwendolyn Madrigal, Stage Manager



This year the engagement with students presenting their portfolios will be a ‘speed dating’ format. Theatre professionals will spend 15 minutes with 3 different students and their online portfolio. Student always value talking one on one with directors, Artistic Directors, Designers and Production Managers. The general public is welcome and encouraged to view the student portfolios. Professionals new to the Chicago area or looking to expand their network may also exhibit.

Schedule: Monday May 17, 2021

5pm – 6pm - Design Exhibition

6pm – 7:15pm – Award presentation and conversation with the artists.

There is no charge to participate. Donations will be accepted at: