From Page to Stage: Creating The Canadian [Entry #3]

This blog series takes you behind-the-scenes of the world premiere of The Canadian at the Thousand Islands Playhouse. 

Entry #3 is from set & costume designer Anna Treusch. 

Explaining my design process can be a daunting task, but no more daunting than designing a set and costumes for a new farce! With The Canadian, written by the clever Jason Hall, I had some pretty common challenges when it comes to designing a farce, like fitting a million doors onstage. But Jason also wrote in many fun new tasks for me. He writes with so much detail that the aesthetic of the world was so clear to me from the first time I read the script. The challenge was figuring out just the right layout that would accommodate all of the humorous movement his script demanded.  

Designing is never a one person task – it’s always a collaboration. It starts with the playwright and the director. I have worked with director Rob Kempson on seven shows now, and during that time we have created our own design vernacular. Rob and I touch base early in the process, months and months before we set foot in the production facility. Generally he will give me a few key things that are important to keep in mind when designing. For this show, he said that he wanted the space to feel like the cabin he lived in during his summers in Gananoque. Another important thing is movement, which is exactly what a farce demands! This means that the layout of the space must have a natural flow so that the actors have a clear path around all the furniture. Rob uses every element in the space, which means that the set had to be solid and safe for climbing, running, and falling, and most importantly he wanted some elements of surprise! I won’t reveal what those elements are, for that you will have to pop in and see for yourself…

For most of my designs, I start by doing research on themes and concepts in the script. I collect images and share them with the director, and I use the visuals that appeal to both of us to inform me of what direction to take the palette in. For The Canadian, the palette came from natural tones found in our Canadian landscape as well as the iconic red colour from the flag. Shopping and collecting things to dress this set with was so much fun because the local area has so many wonderful Canadiana items – our beloved mounted moose head was generously given to us by a local family.  

One of my favourite things about working at the Thousand Islands Playhouse is the incredible team made up of some of the best talent in Canada. From the amazing Jayne Christopher (head of wardrobe), who has been bringing costumes to this stage for years always with skill and style, to Mark Hunt (head carpenter), who has designed and built more sets than I’m sure he will admit, to Megumi Hari (scenic artist), who stays up late into the night making sure each brush stroke is just right. They are just a few of the hardworking people who brought the show to life. This company and the way it functions is so perfectly Canadian!

The Canadian is on stage at the Thousand Islands Playhouse from July 27 – August 18. 

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