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Patrick Du Wors, Assistant Professor in Drama

Figaro's Wedding, presented by Against The Grain Theatre. Photo by Darryl Block. Joel Ivany: Stage Director and librettist; Christopher Mokrzewski: Music Director; Patrick Du Wors: Set Designer; Erika Connor: Costume Designer; Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu: Wedding Gown Designer; Jason Hand: Lighting Designer; Stephen Hegedus: Figaro; Miriam Khalil: Susanna; Lisa DiMaria: Rosina; Alexander Dobson: Alberto; Teiya Kasahara: Cherubino; Michael Ciufo: Basilio/Curzio; Loralie Kirkpatrick: Marcellina; Gregory Finney: Bartolo/Antonio

Photo by Darryl Block.
Joel Ivany: Stage Director and librettist
Christopher Mokrzewski: Music Director
Patrick Du Wors: Set Designer
Erika Connor: Costume Designer
Atelier Rosemarie Umetsu: Wedding Gown Designer
Jason Hand: Lighting Designer
Stephen Hegedus: Figaro
Miriam Khalil: Susanna
Lisa DiMaria: Rosina
Alexander Dobson: Alberto
Teiya Kasahara: Cherubino
Michael Ciufo: Basilio/Curzio
Loralie Kirkpatrick: Marcellina
Gregory Finney: Bartolo/Antonio

Patrick Du Wors joined the Drama faculty of the School of Creative and Performing Arts at the University of Calgary in July 2013. Besides teaching, Patrick keeps busy working as a freelance performance designer. Recently, his set design for Figaro’s Wedding was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award, which honours the best in Toronto theatre, dance and opera.

When did you discover your passion for theatre?
I discovered my passion for theatre in high school. My brilliant younger sister skipped a grade and we were in the same grade together. That was very difficult. Ultimately, I had to find something that I was better at than she was and it turned out to be theatre.

What happened next?
After my BFA at the University of Victoria, I did some self-produced work, concentrating on directing and design. That’s when I realized it’s too big of a job to direct and design. My main focus has always been on the visual aspects so I choose to expand my skills in design by pursuing a MFA at the University of Alberta. I knew that I needed to expand my point of view. That’s why, immediately after graduating I went for 2 years to the UK, working primarily as an assistant designer with major companies including the Royal Shakespeare Company.

How would you describe the differences between theatre in North America and Europe?
Generally speaking, the theatre industry in North-America struggles in terms of funding, the cost of doing things, … The exception would be Quebec, where there are more investments in culture. Compared to Europe, our theatre-going culture is on the decline. There is a fear of risk-taking in larger venues because the financial consequences are so severe. The problem is that this can lead to mundane and boring work where you loose the audience slowly. In Europe there is a lot more room to take risks. Not to say that in Canada there isn’t an incredible amount of super innovative theatre happening at the fringe and grassroots level. That is an area where we are much stronger than Europe.

What would you like your students to take away?
I want to pass on a passion for the live performing arts. It can do so many things that more popular/populist media can’t do. It’s also about having a passion for great work, not mediocre work or work that’s good just because we’ve done it. I’m going to try and bring my international experience to my classes, so the students are familiar with what is happening globally in terms of theatre. Hopefully they will get enough of a taste, that they‘ll want to seek it out themselves.

You have been nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best Set Design for Figaro’s Wedding. Can you tell me about the production and how you got on board?
Figaro's Wedding is a wonderfully funny, updated version of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, set in modern day Toronto. Much of the comedy and confusion is driven by miss-directed text messages and the follies around modern communication. Joel Ivany, artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre and director/librettist of this production, approached me to join the creative team. His company is one of the most innovative independent opera companies in Canada. Despite the challenges of working with a tiny budget and limited support, I jumped at the chance to work on this unique project. All of the artists involved with this company have incredible training and professional experience and I knew everyone would bring their A game.

Can you describe the set you designed?
The production was staged at the Burroughs building in Toronto, which is a 6th floor heritage space that is used for exhibits and events such as weddings. The challenge was setting two rooms up in such a way that the classic comic elements would work - hidden entrance and exits, etc. It also had to feel like a wedding! The director and I wanted to tie Baroque elements into a very modern wedding decor and so I worked extensively with classical etching which I reworked into a modern colour scheme and had printed in large scale. The entire set was assembled by an incredible team of volunteers from the professional opera/ theatre community.
Part of site specific design includes carving out and designing the dressings rooms, back stage space and other facilities that are a given in a traditional theatre setting. Managing the audience experience is also a key element of this kind of design: determining how the audience enters the space, how they will move through the space and what they will see at key moments are all consideration in this kind of work.

How does it feel to be nominated for a Dora Award?
I am thrilled with this nomination and the six other nominations Figaro’s Wedding received. We are such a small group and to be nominated in the same category alongside Les Misérables and other big-budget productions is quite a coup. I'm looking forward to the party and seeing all of my Toronto colleagues!

The Dora Mavor Moore Award ceremony will be held tonight at Harbourfront Centre in Toronto.