School of Music, Theatre and Dance

OU alum wins award for costume design at national theatre festival

Matthew Carlsen’s work on OU production of ‘Urinetown’ earns him top honors

icon of a calendarSeptember 2, 2020

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OU alum wins award for costume design at national theatre festival
A scene from OU’s fall 2019 production of "Urinetown."

Oakland University alum Matthew Carlsen recently won the 2020 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival (KCACTF) National Award for Costume Design for his presentation/costume design work on OU’s fall 2019 production of Urinetown.

The honor includes a scholarship and a professional development residency.

Matthew Carlsen
Matthew Carlsen

“I am so proud of all I have been able to accomplish in my short time at OU and I’m glad I was able to discover my passion for costume design when I did,” said Carlsen, who graduated this year with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree in musical theatre. “I’m glad to know that there is a light at the end of a summer of cancellations, disappointments, and uncertainty.”

While Carlsen jokes that he began his design career at a young age by painting his younger brother’s face with Crayola washable markers, it wasn’t until he arrived at Oakland University that he discovered his passion for costume designing.

“Through the collaboration of my professors and the flexibility of my degree program, I was able to build upon my skills as a designer and create a solid foundation for a career in costumes,” said Carlsen, who earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theatre earlier this year from OU.

Matthew Carlsen's renderings
Carlsen's 'Urinetown' costume renderings

While at Oakland, Carlsen designed costumes for the School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s mainstage productions of Seagull, Urinetown, and Cabaret; student- directed works such as Clybourne Park and Southern Promises; and several dance pieces for Oakland Dance Theatre concerts.

“Matt is wildly talented and detailed,” said Christa Koerner, OU costume shop supervisor, theatre faculty and a mentor of Carlsen’s. “His work at OU has been astounding and clearly rises to the top, even on a national level.”

Carlsen was able to compete in the KCACTF National Festival in April after winning the Region III festival in January. The Region III festival included college and university students from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.

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