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Drama design grad joins Stratford Festival

A scene from Measure for Measure, a Shakespeare play performed on the stage at the School of Creative and Performing Arts during the 2013-14 season. The set and costumes were designed by Jennifer Lee Arsenault.

Photo by Red Dot Photography

The Stratford Festival is one of the most prominent arts festivals in Canada. It is internationally recognized for its productions of Shakespearean plays, but also produces a wide variety of theatre by other great writers. The festival has hired the talented Jennifer Lee Arsenault, who just finished her MFA in Drama (Design) as Assistant Designer for two of its 2015 shows.

“I’ll be assisting designer Douglas Paraschuk for She Stoops to Conquer and the musical Carousel,” says Arsenault. “My job is to facilitate communication between the director, the shops and the designer and make sure that Paraschuk’s design ideas are executed properly.”

Although she won’t be designing for the festival, Arsenault is excited to be able to work with Paraschuk, who has been designing for the Stratford Festival for more than 20 seasons and was also the design director of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Ceremonies. “It’s a great opportunity for me to see how large theatre festivals work,” says Arsenault. “I hope to make good contacts there.”

Arsenault grew up in the Magdalen Islands, Québec and moved to Montréal to pursue her post-secondary education. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Design from the Université de Quebec after which she traveled the world to further her knowledge. It was during one of those travels that she met April Viczko, Associate Professor in Drama at the School of Creative and Performing Arts.

“I left my portfolio at the Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space and April saw it. She contacted me and asked me if I would be interested to do my MFA at the University of Calgary,” recounts Arsenault.

One year later, Arsenault applied for the MFA in Drama. Looking back at her time as a graduate student, she believes she’s grown a lot in those last two years.

As a student at the University of Calgary, Arsenault designed masks for The Love of the Nightingale, worked on five Taking Flight productions and did her thesis project on the set and costume design for Measure for Measure.  She also assisted Viczko with the design for a student presentation for the Governor General of Canada, and got to shake his hand, and went to Banff for a summit conference.

“I’ve learned a lot. It’s a very intense program but I received so many great opportunities,” says Arsenault, “I wouldn’t have been able to do this anywhere else.”