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Arts & Culture

Award Winning Costume Designer

Brian Hemesath

Though he’s been unemployed for months, like millions of Americans, due to COVID-19, St. Ambrose University alum Brian Hemesath got good news late last month.

For the third time out of eight nominations, the 48-year-old Iowa native won a Daytime Emmy Award for his costume design work on “Sesame Street.” Hemesath – who earned his bachelor’s in theater and art in 1994 from SAU – was among a team of 21 designers to tie for the July 26 Emmy with the Amazon show “Dino Dana.” He designs the clothes for the human cast of “Sesame Street,” and the award is shared with staff of the Henson Company, which handles the puppets.

“All of those people bring a design eye to what happens with the puppets and with the overall look of the show. So we really value all of their skills and their design eye as well.”

Also winning the Daytime Emmy in 2011 and 2015, the native of rural Calmar, Iowa, in the northeast corner of the state, finished filming his 11 th season of the beloved children’s educational series, which celebrated its 50 th anniversary in 2019.

“We just finished, we were very lucky. We just finished filming March 6 th this year.”

The Covid crisis shut down most TV and film production nationwide by mid-March.

“I’m waiting to hear when we will go back for season 52, and how we’ll go back. There’s no set rules that have been established between all of the different unions. There’s the design union, the actors union, the directors union, there’s the stagehands union, and they all have to sort of agree on what they think are the safest practices for everybody. I know everybody’s been working very hard on that, because we all want to go back to work.”

During the pandemic, Hemesath did get a costume design job through his friendship with fellow Ambrose alum Kim Furness, who cast a TV pilot “Complete Bull,” which shot this summer with many Quad-Cities actors in northeast Iowa.

“Part of the reason they allowed that production to go forward was that it had a lot of relatively small numbers of actors interacting within scenes, and a lot of it took place outdoors.”

Hemesath stayed with his parents in Decorah, and did some virtual fittings beforehand, sent clothing to actors, and was here a month during shooting. Being back near where he grew up, on a dairy farm, was a meaningful homecoming.

“It brought back a lot of great memories – it was fantastic to get to talk to the owners of the farms, in addition to having some first-hand knowledge of what these people were actually doing and why. The importance of artificial insemination for cattle and why that is an important thing for farmers to utilize, to get the most out of their cattle.”

Last year, when Hemesath won an SAU Distinguished Alumni Award, he also added a big credit to his resume, as first assistant to costume designer Paul Tazewell who did “Hamilton,” on the new Steven Spielberg-directed remake of “West Side Story.” Hemesath said it was an amazing project to be part of – a classic, iconic musical and a blockbuster director.

“He’s said in a lot of interviews, he loves the original film; he just had imagined it differently when he was a kid and he wanted to bring that to life. I think people are going to be really excited about the film.”

He’s crossing his fingers that the theatrical release date of Dec. 18 will happen, since movie theaters are still closed.

“We’ll see; hopefully we’ll be in a better position and people will be back in theaters by then. Whenever they do release it, I think it’s going to be really special.”