Dean Phillip Silver bows off the decanal stage and embarks on his next act

The curtain goes down on one chapter in his professional life when Faculty of Fine Arts Dean Phillip Silver bows off the decanal stage today after a decade at the helm. But it also ushers in a host of new accolades for another aspect of his career: his creative work as a stage designer.

Silver has been nominated for the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Lighting Design for his work on the play Rose, written by Martin Sherman, directed by Diana Leblanc and starring Lally Cadeau, which ran in March at the Jane Mallet Theatre. The inaugural production of the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company, Rose received five Dora nods, including Outstanding Production. 

Each year, the Dora Awards recognize the best of Toronto’s performing arts presentations over the past season. Silver will find out if he has a fourth Dora statue to add to his collection at the ceremony later today, which auspiciously happens to also be his birthday as well as the last day of his deanship.

Left: Portrait of Phillip Silver by V. Tony Hauser. Photograph courtesy of the Faculty of Fine Arts

He has also been garnering kudos for his second project with the Harold Green Jewish Theatre Company: set design for the Toronto premiere production of Wendy Wasserstein’s Broadway hit, The Sisters Rosensweig, which ran June 12 to 22. The Toronto Star gave the play 3.5 stars out of 4 and lauded Silver for providing "the kind of understatedly elegant set you haven’t seen in years." The Globe and Mail said "designer Phillip Silver’s London drawing room is knock-out gorgeous.” NOW magazine’s four-star review likewise praised Silver’s set design.

Silver was saluted at the national level for his contributions as a stage designer with his induction into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (RCA) on June 14. “It’s an honour to be recognized in this way,” Silver said. “RCA’s goals of fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and encouraging the next generation of artists are closely aligned my own.”

Now celebrating its 128th year, RCA is one of Canada’s most enduring cultural institutions. It currently comprises 700 members working across Canada in a wide range of visual arts disciplines, from painting and sculpture to architecture and design. Membership is by peer election, based on the honouree’s contribution to the visual arts in Canada through a significant body of work that has been recognized for its excellence and innovation. The distinguished company of academicians includes architects Douglas Cardinal and Raymond Moriyama, painters Ken Danby, Daphne Odjig and Betty Goodwin, filmmakers Atom Egoyan and Norman Jewison, and stage designers Susan Benson and York Theatre Professor Teresa Przybylski.

Silver was also recently elected to the board of directors of Associated Designers of Canada (ADC), a national service and advocacy organization for professional set, costume, lighting and sound designers working in the performing arts across Canada. He was nominated by his peers and voted in at the annual general meeting in May.

“Like all volunteer-run organizations, the ADC wouldn’t exist without the people who contribute their time to get the work done,” said Silver. “Many designers are so busy working to make ends meet they can’t spare the time to get involved. In my case, my priority commitment over the past 10 years has been to academic administration. Now that I’m moving out of that role, I’ll have more time available to give back to an organization that contributes so much to my field.”

Having served a double term as dean of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, 1998-2008, Silver jokingly refers to his future persona as “has-dean”.  But while he’s leaving the Faculty’s senior administration, he’ll continue to be involved in several York projects in the coming year, including advancing international relationships in China and the Middle East, and organizing a performance event for the University’s 50th anniversary celebration.

His plans for the immediate future, however, are down-home local. When asked what he intends to do July 1, his first post-decanal day, Silver said: “I think I’ll do something terribly patriotic, like have a Canadian beer in my back yard.”