He may have won a Daytime Emmy Award for his costuming talents on “Sesame Street,” but Brian Hemesath considers himself a late bloomer when it comes to fashion design.
“I didn’t know how to sew till I was a sophomore in college,” the 1994 St. Ambrose University grad said from his home in New York. “I learned at Ambrose and took my first costume design class from (department chair) Cory Johnson. She’s the reason I even knew it was possible.”
Hemesath, who grew up on a dairy farm at Calmar, Iowa, near Decorah, went to Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh and has been costuming stage work and TV shows ever since.
He has been the head costume designer for “Sesame Street” the past three seasons and won an Emmy along with his co-costumer in 2011. He had worked on and off for the Public Broadcasting Service children’s show for several years before that. He’s also assistant costumer on “Saturday Night Live,” and his duties there include working on the comedy series’ “Digital Shorts,” including several with cast member Andy Samberg and singer Justin Timberlake.
On top of that, he’s helped NBC-TV’s “Today” show anchors with their annual on-air Halloween costumes.
While “SNL” is on 20-22 weeks a year and “Sesame Street” is recorded in a stretch of eight weeks, the rest of Hemesath’s time is spent designing costumes for theaters in the New York area.
The 40-year-old returns to his alma mater this week as the costume designer for “You Can’t Take it With You,” a scholarship benefit show that opens Friday as a co-production of the university and the Curtainbox Theatre Company. (See related story on page B9.)
Curtainbox founder Kimberly Furness has known Hemesath since she was a freshman in college and considers him “my best friend in the whole world.”
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“Brian amazes me. He is one of the most driven, hard-working people I know. Brian sets goals for himself and just does it. There’s no ifs, ands or buts about it,” she said. “People look at him and say, ‘Oh, he’s just so lucky.’ He’s not lucky; he works like no human being I know. He really is incredibly driven and an incredible people person. He’s great with people and that has a lot to do with Brian’s success. People enjoy working with him.”
Drawings and costumes from Hemesath’s portfolio will be on display in the Morrissey Gallery at St. Ambrose beginning the night of the stage comedy’s opening.
While “Sesame Street” and “SNL” begin their new seasons soon, Hemesath is also involved with another production: his wedding in late September. His partner works in visual communications for a cosmetics company.