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A glimpse into the design world of SUSAN BENSON and MICHAEL WHITFIELD
Join two of Canada’s finest theatrical designers, Susan Benson and Michael Whitfield, as they introduce their process of designing sets, costumes and lighting for the stage. The presentation is accompanied by photos illustrating the backstage production process and including examples of designs for theatre, opera and ballet from the Stratford Festival to the San Francisco Opera to the National Ballet of Canada. This is a rare opportunity, be sure to be there!
SUSAN BENSON RCA
Susan Benson was trained in England and since 1966 has created set and costume designs throughout Canada and the United States.
From 1974 until 2005 she designed many productions for the Stratford Festival of Canada for directors including Robin Phillips and Michael Langham and was Head of Design for Artistic Director John Hirsch. The production of The Mikado directed by Brian Macdonald, toured throughout Canada, the USA, played at the Old Vic in the UK and was filmed by CBC. Of the many productions which she designed at Stratford some of the more memorable ones were A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Maggie Smith, The Gondoliers, Iolanthe, Cabaret, Guys and Dolls, and Twelfth Night with Brian Bedford in 1975.
For the Canadian Opera Company, Ms Benson designed Death in Venice, La Forza Del Destino, Madama Butterfly and The Golden Ass. Productions for other companies have included The Ballad of Baby Doe for San Francisco Opera and the New York City Opera, Don Quichotte for New York City Opera,The Gondoliers for the Australian Opera Company, The Magic Flute for Minnesota Opera and the Dallas Opera, Marriage of Figaro for the Banff Centre. Susan Benson was designer for the Canadian Opera Company’s Gala Concert to celebrate the opening of the Four Seasons Centre.
Ms. Benson designs for the National Ballet of Canada included The Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet. Ballet companies have included the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the National Ballet of Finland and the National Ballet of China. In 2016 the Birmingham Royal Ballet will be using her designs for the ballet The Taming of the Shrew.
She has taught at the National Theatre School in Montreal and theatre departments in Canada and the United States including the Banff Centre, University of Illinois and Carnegie Mellon University. In 1986 she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.
Ms. Benson has received eight Dora Mavor Moore awards, a Jessie and has represented Canada five times at the Prague Quadrenniale. She was awarded the Banff Centre National Arts Award for her contributions to the Arts in Canada in 2000, and in 2001she received the Canadian Institute of Theatre Technology Professional Achievement Award. In 2009 Canadian Actor’s Equity gave her an Honorary membership.
She now lives and paints on Salt Spring Island. Among her portraits is the portrait of Eric Donkin in The Mikado now in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, Ottawa.
In a career spanning over 40 years, Michael Whitfield has created the lighting for hundreds of theatre, opera and ballet productions. As resident lighting designer at the Stratford Festival for over 25 years, he lit such notable shows as The Mikado which toured throughout North America and to London’s Old Vic Theatre. He has also designed for the Shaw Festival and many of Canada’s regional theatres. His opera designs have been featured at companies in Toronto, Vancouver, San Francisco, San Diego, Cardiff and Amsterdam. His work has also included lighting for Canada’s National and Royal Winnipeg ballets and for the Finnish National Ballet. Michael is currently a sessional lighting design instructor at UVic.