Program Faculty

Martha Ferrara

Martha Ferrara

Martha Ferrara is an award-winning designer of more than 75 productions in theatre, dance, opera, and video. She is perhaps best known for her interpretive reconstruction of Kasimir Malevich’s 1913 costumes for the futurist opera VICTORY OVER THE SUN. Commissioned as part of LA County Museum of Art’s exhibit of the Russian avant-garde, these sculptural costumes were later exhibited at the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin, der Meervaart in Amsterdam, and at the History of Sculpture exhibit in Basel. For LACMA’s “Intensity and Outcry” exhibit of German Expressionists, she was commissioned to design Oskar Kokoschka’s “Murder, the Hope of Women”. Ms. Ferrara has lectured at the museum and is published in the United States Institute for Theater Technology anthology, Inspired Teaching.  

As the costume designer for Los Angeles-based Loretta Livingston and Dancers, she created the costumes for twelve premieres, including the Orange County Performing Arts Center’s millennium production of 2,000 Steps, and she was honored as the first recipient of the Lester Horton Award for visual design for dance. Ms. Livingston and Ms. Ferrara also collaborated on a project with the Anna Mary Robertson Grandma Moses Estate, interpreting 8 paintings to performance.  In theatre, she is known for her designs for new plays, including those developed at the Odyssey Theatre such as Year one of the Empire and McCarthy. For the screen, Ms. Ferrara created the costumes for the PBS Special Isabella d’Este, First Lady of the Renaissance, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, which was filmed on location in Venice and at the Schifanoia Palace in her ancestral home, Ferrara.  For young people, she originated the costumes for the educational touring show, Cootie Shots: Inoculations Against Bigotry, which has been performed at the Kennedy Center and throughout California school districts. Ms. Ferrara’s costume design illustrations are featured in the two volumes, Staging Scenes from the Operas of Mozart and Staging Scenes from the Operas of Donizetti and Verdi, authored by stage director William Ferrara, and published by Roman and Littlefield.

Ms. Ferrara joined the CalArts faculty in 1977, teaching courses in Costume Design, History, Drawing, and Special Costume Crafts. She served as the Acting Dean of the School of Theatre from 1991-1995 and currently is the Head of the Undergraduate Costume Design program.  Her training is from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Goodman School of Drama.