York’s theatre designers take centre stage in Scenes by Design

You take your seat in the theatre. The lights go down, the curtain rises. Before a word is spoken – perhaps even before the actors step onto the stage – the production begins to work its magic. Lighting, sets and costumes all conspire together to create the world in which the play is set. And as the tale unfolds, they help to tell the story.

Right:  Costumes for the 2004 Theatre @ York production of Shakuntala, design by Sarah Melamed.

Scenes by Design, an exhibition being staged by York’s Department of Theatre March 30 to April 2, offers a glimpse of the creative wizardry that goes into designing a theatrical production.

Visitors wending their way through the show will see costumes and accessories, designs and concept drawings, stage maquettes, props and lighting plots, created by the talented production students in the Theatre Department. More than 100 original pieces comprise this collection, drawn from classroom assignments as well as Theatre @ York productions from this year and past seasons.

Scenes by Design reveals the different ways in which designers start with a play as text and then build upon and translate it visually, fusing interpretive and technical skills with a unique creative voice. The exhibit is the culmination of years of hard work by students who produce three to four mainstage shows each season. They are involved in all aspects of each production which parallels the professional performing arts working environment. In addition to the hands-on practical project work, the students also learn to develop their own individuality and follow their artistic instincts.


Left: The stage maquette from the 2004 Theatre @ York production Big Love, design by Michelle Blore.

At York, production students have the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the business. Their mentors include some of the nation’s leading stage designers, among them Theatre Department Chair Shawn Kerwin, Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver, and faculty members Teresa Przybylski, Elizabeth Asselstine and Peter McKinnon, who have “set the stage” for productions across Canada, including the Stratford and Shaw Festivals, Edmonton’s Citadel Theatre, the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Theatre New Brunswick, Pacific Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, to name just a few.

Scenes by Design will be on view for four days from 11:30am to 3pm in the Joseph G. Green Studio Theatre, Centre for Film and Theatre located on the Keele campus. Admission is free. For more information, call the Theatre Department at ext. 55172.