The primary Stages Off-Broadway Oral history Project

Celebrating the visionaries who created New York's vibrant Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theater.

Willa Kim

Willa Kim

Costume Designer
Born on Saturday, June 30, 1917
Died on Friday, December 23, 2016

Interviewed on: Wednesday, March 11, 2015
Location: Her Home
Interviewed by: Casey Childs
Interview #30
"I fell into theatre because I was handy, I was there."
Willa Kim Highlights
Video Length: 4 Minutes, 52 Seconds
Willa Kim Interview
Video Length: 1 Hour, 2 Minutes

Willa Kim is a costume designer whose career has spanned over 70 years. Her first venture with Off-Broadway was designing costumes for THE SAVING GRACE (1963). Her other Off-Broadway credits include: THE OLD GLORY (1964/1965), HELEN (1964), THE DAY THE WHORES CAME OUT TO PLAY/SING TO ME THROUGH OPEN WINDOWS (1965), SCUBA DUBA (1967), PAPP (1969), PROMENADE (1970), SUNDAY DINNER (1970), FAMILY DEVOTIONS (1981), LYDIE BREEZE (1982), WOMAN BEFORE A GLASS (2005), ADRIFT IN MACAO (2007), and DRACULA (2011). With ADRIFT IN MACAO, Kim was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award and a Henry Hewes Design Award for Costume Design. In 1965, she received an OBIE Award for Best Costumes with THE OLD GLORY. She won another OBIE Award for Costume Design with WOMAN BEFORE A GLASS in 2005.

Kim was born in Los Angeles, California and is a 1935 graduate of Belmont High School. Her career began with freehand drawings of her impressions of high school life in the 1935 Belmont yearbook.  She received a scholarship and attended Chouinard Art Institute (now California Institute of the Arts).  After graduation, she worked for the designer Raoul Pene du Bois in the film industry. She was drawn into the world of theatre by assisting on costumes for the Broadway production of It Happens on Ice (1941). Kim’s other Broadway costume design credits include: Are You with It? (1945), The Music Man (1957), Gypsy (1959), Bosoms and Neglect (1979), Sophisticated Ladies (1981), The Will Rogers Follies (1991), Grease (1994), and Victor/Victoria (1995). She won two Tony Awards for Best Costume Design with Sophisticated Ladies and The Will Rogers Follies. In 2007, Kim was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame because of her lifetime achievement in costume design.

Mentioned in Interview

Raoul Pene Du Bois, Adrienne Kennedy, John Guare, Arthur Kopit, Lanie Roberston, Wynn Handman, Bruce Jay Friedman, Maria Irene Fornes, Madeline Kahn, Robert Lowell, Al Carmines, Barbara Karinska, Edith Head, Peggy Guggenheim, Sam Shepard, American Theater Hall of Fame, Primary Stages, American Place Theatre, The Living Theatre, Lucille Lortel Theatre, Lincoln Center Theater, The Joffrey Ballet, FUNNYHOUSE OF A NEGRO, THE OLD GLORY, WOMAN BEFORE A GLASS, LYDIE BREEZE, SCUBA DUBA, THE RED EYE OF LOVE, WHAT THE GENTLEMEN ARE UP TO, NOT TO MENTION THE LADIES, PROMENADE, FEFU AND HER FRIENDS. ADRIFT IN MACAO, THE DAY THE WHORES CAME OUT TO PLAY TENNIS, DRACULA