Theatre alumna Dana Osborne (BFA ’96), a costume and set designer with the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, has been honoured with the Ontario Arts Council’s prestigious Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award in Costume Design.
The $15,000 prize, given annually to a professional Canadian costume designer in mid-career working in Ontario, allows recipients to further enrich their careers through research and travel. Osborne received her award June 18 at a ceremony at the council’s Toronto office.
One of Dana Osborne’s renderings for Hosanna, Stratford Festival, 2011
“I was thrilled,” said Osborne. “I plan use the award to travel to London, England and New York City, plus purchase some drafting and rendering programs for my computer and some new art reference books. This comes at the perfect time with everything that’s going on in my career and my life. I’ve been very busy lately and was desperate to take some time to recharge.”
Osborne was selected as the winner from an outstanding group of nominees. Citing her strong, creative interpretations, the jury of theatre professionals said: “[Osbourne] is a modern designer for today’s theatre. She uses her strong sense of today’s fashions, cleverly blended with historical looks, to give her shows unique designs. She also makes excellent use of found objects and has strong technical skills.”
Osborne has been working as a theatre designer across Canada for 15 years. In this, her 12th season at the Stratford Festival, she is the creative force behind the costumes for the mainstage production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and the world premiere of Morris Panych’s musical Wanderlust. Her other Stratford credits include costumes for Hosanna, As You Like It, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Moby Dick, The Comedy of Errors, The Lark, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Timon of Athens, Agamemnon and set and costumes for King Henry IV, Part One.
Her work can also be seen this season in Soulpepper Theatre Company’s Speed-the-Plow, currently playing at the Young Centre in Toronto’s Distillery District, and Pacific Opera Victoria’s upcoming production of Macbeth. Osbourne’s designs have graced the stages of Regina’s Globe Theatre, the Grand Theatre in London/Ontario, and Canadian Stage, Young People’s Theatre, Pleiades Theatre and Factory Theatre in Toronto.
After earning her BFA at York, Osborne began her career in costume management, working with the Canadian Opera Company, Shaw Festival and Mirvish Productions, before choosing to specialize in design. She was named one of the Young Designers to Watch in Entertainment Design in 2004 and received the 2010 Dora Mavor Moore Award for Outstanding Costume Design for Theatrefront’s production of The Mill.
“Studying theatre at York gave me a great foundation to build upon,” said Osborne. “It taught me how to navigate the politics of the theatre, how to survive working long hours under stress, and to be flexible and creative. Theatre design is a collaborative art. A lot of people are involved in getting it from the page to the stage and they will all leave their mark on your design, so it’s important to embrace that.”