Scenography in Canada: Selected Designers


249 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-0685-X
DDC 792'.025'092271




Reviewed by Ian C. Nelson

Ian C. Nelson, Librarian Emeritus, former Assistant Director of
Libraries (University of Saskatchewan) and dramaturge (Festival de la
Dramaturgie des Prairies).


Toronto, Vancouver, and Edmonton have theatre design awards, but serious
discussion of Canadian scenography has largely been confined to
catalogues and dedicated issues of theatre journals. Scenography in
Canada is a sumptuous benchmark volume. The selected designers number
only seven (Astrid Janson, Susan Benson, Mary Kerr, Jim Plaxton, Michael
Levine, Ken MacDonald, and Teresa Przybylski), but their work is
wide-ranging, from designs for tiny locales with no backstage storage
and no fly gallery, to outdoor amphitheatres and architectural
structures, to extravagant stage productions mounted by the Stratford
and Shaw Festivals and the Canadian Opera Company. The seven have been
chosen “to exhibit the breadth and originality of Canadian design in
theatre, opera and dance.”

It is difficult to begin enumerating the most valuable parts of this
remarkable study. Of course the 207 illustrations reproduced on glossy
paper stand as a record of the designers and their work. They will
undoubtedly prove to be an inspiration for students and emerging
artists. The lavish colour rendering is a visual treat.

The biographical chapters dedicated to each scenographer are
meticulously researched and include statements from the artists
concerning the specific challenge of the theatre space and the overall
production concept and their approach to creating an appropriate vision
for the task at hand. The book’s introduction is an unexpected bonus,
inasmuch as it gives a succinct history of regional theatres and their
particular spaces over the years.

Certainly in keeping with the subject of visual artistic creation, the
volume itself is most attractively printed, with generous white space
provided so as not to crowd contemplation of the plates or reading of
the text. That said, one might still quibble at a separation of elements
that has one jumping from a numbered plate, to its identification and
descriptive listing, to the discursive article about the designer and
the production, and finally to the sources and further explanations
found in endnotes.


Rewa, Natalie., “Scenography in Canada: Selected Designers,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 17, 2024,