Show Blog: offers and camping

PLANK takes you behind the scenes of Studio 58's upcoming production of The Winter's Tale. Here, we follow Christopher David Gauthier who is the set designer on the project, from the first offer to opening night. Stay tuned for more from Christopher...

An Offer
On July 2nd I received an email with the following subject “ An offer you can’t refuse!” - used to offers that I can in fact refuse, I was seconds away from deleting it when I saw who the sender was.

Kathryn Shaw, Artistic Director of Studio 58!

“Hi Christopher,

After speaking with Anita Rochon and Pam Johnson, I am pleased to tell you are being offered the set design for THE WINTER'S TALE under Pam's mentorship as a student assignment…”

This is an honour rarely given to a student. (A little jumping and yelling ensued – calls to family, you get the picture.)

I did not refuse.

I know only vaguely what Anita Rochon (the Director) has in mind. I read and reread the play, mind open to ideas, but never allowing anything to become insistent, my job as I see it is to bring to life Anita’s vision, provide a visual language (along with the Costume and Lighting Designers) to accompany Anita’s take on the play.

Sat July 26th
First meeting  I’ve been on first dates, blind dates, interviews and callbacks, but I don’t think I have ever been that nervous before. Dressed ever so carefully yet trying to appear casual (I think I changed 10 times) I arrive at the restaurant 30 minutes early. It’s hot. I wait…

Anita Rochon arrives exuding such an air of simpatico that nervousness flies off and we get down to the business of getting to know each other.

We talk of the town, the weather (that red thunderstorm we had here is happening as we speak), and although ships, sealing wax, and cabbages are not mentioned, shoes and kings (Leontes and Polixenes) make an appearance.

And we talk of Russia, Canada, onion domes and trees…

So  our Sicilia will be a Russian inspired 60’s era cold war “kingdom”. And the Bohemians are to be campers in a provincial park in a 70’s era “Canadian kingdom”.  On Victoria (perhaps now “Bohemia”?) Day!

Except when I think campers, I think tents and “roughing it”, and when Anita says it she is seeing the sort of folks who bring folding chairs and lawn ornaments. And it takes me a while to understand, but I do. (And then I get it…and do I laugh? Yeah of course they are! I think I like the Bohemians already. Kitsch as a style is one of my favourite things about people. It’s really human!)

The Lesson: just as “blue” can conjure up different colours/meanings in different people so can other words. As a designer I need to be sure I have a common language. Won’t make that mistake again… (uh-oh. Famous last eh?)

And while onion domes are big in Russian, when I try for a “Kremlin” palace they keep it looking like Bagdad and 1001 nights.

People in Russia drink Birch juice for health.

But I’ve learned that the Grey Birch is Russia’s national tree. (And we have birches in Canada that look much the same… might come in handy.) 

Art Form: 
Author Name: 
Christopher David Gauthier
Photograph Caption: 
Christopher takes us behind the scenes.