Remembering Sarah Nash Gates: Beloved Artist, Mentor, Board Member and Friend

No comments

In December of 2015, Seattle lost a treasured artist and teacher, Sarah Nash Gates. She will long be remembered by the staff of The 5th Avenue Theater as one of our greatest influences, a wonderful board member and a true friend. While 5th Avenue audiences would know her for her incredible costume designs, her devotion to theater and arts education made its influence felt in ways that patrons might not perceive.


5th Avenue audiences were amazed by Gates’ talent as a costume designer when she brought Oliver! to life in stunning vivid colors, followed by the critically-acclaimed production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel. She designed for other Seattle institutions including Intiman, Seattle Rep, Seattle Children’s Theatre and Seattle Opera. She also worked nationally with theaters including Denver Center Theater Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus, among others. She served as president of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology in the early 90s (the first woman and costume designer to hold that office) and served three years as president of the University/Resident Theatre Association.


Gates became a member of the Board of Directors of The 5th Avenue Theatre in 2008, quickly becoming the Chair of the Education Committee, which oversees our many education programs. Over the years, these programs have grown to reach over 65,000 young people across Washington State, thanks in part to her vision and leadership. She was an ardent supporter of programs like Rising Star Project, which provides direct mentorship to young people interested in all facets of theater—completely tuition-free, and Adventure Musical Theater Touring Company, which tours locally-written curriculum based musicals to schools across the state.

She retired as the Executive Director of the UW School of Drama in 2013 after a 20 year career nurturing generations of theater artists and professionals, but could not stay away for long. She came out of retirement recently to serve as the Interim Divisional Dean of the Arts.


The 5th Avenue Theatre has played a major part in cultivating a local talent pool. But as the Executive Director of the UW School of Drama, so did Gates. Many who work regularly on our stage were mentored by Gates as they first tentatively navigated careers as professional theater artists. Artists including lighting designer Robert Aguilar (Little Shop of Horrors; Jasper in Deadland), actress Taryn Darr (A Chorus Line, Val; White Christmas, Judy), and director Brandon Ivie (A Christmas Story, The Musical; Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella) met with her regularly at UW, garnering insight into the professional world of theater that they would eventually pursue.

Gates was also a founding member of Theater Puget Sound, which has become a mainstay of Seattle’s vibrant and multi-faceted theater community, connecting companies with artists and artists with each other. She encouraged collaboration and communication on every level.

The 5th Avenue Theatre will always remember Sarah Nash Gates for her artistry, her passion for mentoring young artists, and her dedication to her community. We mourn her loss, and share our deepest sympathies with her family and loved ones.

This production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying is dedicated to her memory.

By BRIDGET MORGAN, Public Relations & Communications Manager

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s