“I think a lot about color and texture and scale and repetition.”
“Having trained first as a painter, I was struck by how much a play can be like a painting- a wonderful, mobile composition whose visual needs for organization are just as demanding. I think a lot about color and texture and scale and repetition. All of the design choices you make are little conveyors of meaning. They elucidate character and plot and help give the story the beginnings of its heart and essence that the actors can then run with.”
Katie Touart holds a BA in art history from the University of Chicago, a BFA in Painting from Massachusetts College of Art and Design and an MFA in Costume Design from the Yale School of Drama.
Katie originally set out to become a painter, not a costume designer. The love of fabric and fashion learned early at her mother’s side was just one more piece of the rich artistic landscape of her childhood. It was one of the many creative influences that trained her eye, gave her clever hands their initial outlet and encouraged her artist’s ambition.
Katie’s training in painting led to work in many mediums before she turned her hands to costumes. Her greeting card and textile designs have sold at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Harvard University Art Museums, The National Cathedral Shop, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. Her playful window displays for Herend Porcelain, with their witty props and painted backdrops won her a devoted following for the more than seventy windows she designed over sixteen years.
But costume design was waiting in the wings. Katie co-founded a ten week after-school theatre program to engage the children of her local elementary school with all aspects of a theatrical performance. Creating 75 hand-painted kimonos together with those students for their production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado was meant to be just an innocent foray into theatre with her daughters. But that wildly ambitious elementary school production with 100 students on stage, backstage and in the pit orchestra, together with those 75 kimonos became the first steps on the unexpected journey that would eventually lead to the Yale School of Drama.
Three years after that Mikado performance, Katie began to design for professional Theatre for Young Audiences in Washington, DC. At Adventure Theatre MTC her work included classics like James and The Giant Peach, Princess and the Pea, and Winnie the Pooh. For the Smithsonian’s Discovery Theater she designed shows inspired by the museum’s collection, celebrating diversity and unsung heroes. At Imagination Stage, she drew on student inspiration to create costumes for their Speak Out on Stage conservatory program.
Her theatre education work continued with three summers of the Kennedy Center’s “Musicals In The Schools” program, a joyful collaboration between 25 DC public school children and a cadre of theatre professionals, based at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. The growing design work for theatre education programs paralleled an expanding career in professional costume design for TYA and emerging playwrights’ works. By 2016, her work had garnered five Helen Hayes Award nominations for TYA Productions Zomo the Rabbit, Aladdin’s Luck, Winnie the Pooh, Peter Pan and Wendy and Wiley and the Hairy Man. In 2014, she received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Production for Peter Pan and Wendy at Imagination Stage. In 2016, the production of Wiley and the Hairy Man she costumed at Imagination Stage won the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding TYA Production.
Katie’s designs for dance include multiple collaborations with Step Afrika! for their Symphony in Step, 2013 & 2014 Holiday Shows, Green is the New Black, and Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker with The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.
In 2015, Katie was awarded the unique, year-long “Special Student” spot in the MFA Design Program at Yale School of Drama. One year turned into three when Katie chose to pursue the full MFA and was accepted, continuing on with her original class to graduate in 2018. Katie’s thesis production ‘on paper’ of Jacque Offenbach’s opera Tales of Hoffman, which tells the story of poet Hoffman’s loves and his artistic muse, was imaginatively based on real artistic muses of the late 19th century.
Katie costumed four mounted productions while at Yale, including Native Son at Yale Rep, playwright Nambi E. Kelley’s poetic reimagining of Richard Wright’s iconic 1940’s novel and three Yale School of Drama productions. Those included Othello, set in the 1950’s, Some Bodies Travel, a new work examining Black America’s experience by Yale playwrights Tori Sampson and Jireh Breon Holder and Suzan-Lori Park’s Fucking A. Yale Cabaret Satellite Series credits included Do All Daddies Have Grey Suits? and The Silent Sex.