images, ideas, designs for our Arts Club production of Gordon

The set for Gordon has presented some interesting design challenges. This is essentially the set plan for the Sidemart production, turned around, and reconfigured to fit the Arts Club studio space; seen here including the seating plan. We know that the set works, Ken having been involved in the initial production in Montreal. Its not just for sake of ease that we sometimes redo set designs in new spaces, because it takes almost as much effort to redraw and reconfigure a set as it does to come up with it in the first place. The unique character of this design means that no matter how similar the ground plan, the set will look quite different, because of found objects used in design, like fridge and stove, and even cabinetry; we dont often do naturalistic sets but when we do we are at the mercy of the scavenging gods.

In our Arts Club production, Andrew Wheeler, upper left, plays Old Gord; the last time we worked with him was in an Arts Club production of Comedy of Errors about three decades ago! Times and faces have changed. The play was initially going to be called Old Gord, but in spite of a very clever anagram hidden in it, one should never put old in the title of a new play. Speaking of ages, Bill Millerd, left, has been running the Arts Club since before anybody can remember. But what we do remember is a tiny theatre space on Seymour Street where Bill first established the mighty theatre empire that these days includes three theatres. Here, Bill proudly poses in front of a soon to be remodelled studio space, home to the original co-production of Vigil. Above, right, Ken reprises the role of Gordon set designer, this time with Morris directing.


2009 National Theatre School grad Pippa Mackie plays the young, confused, and possibly pregnant Deirdre, an angel in the opinion of one sad old man. But perhaps good and bad is not just in the eyes of the beholder. Below, Patrick Costello rounds out our ensemble, reprising the role of the remorseful Melfort Carl, so excellently realized in the Montreal Sidemart production, directed by Andrew Shaver. Patrick has been a member of Sidemart since its inception, although hails from the West Coast. But as the play cruelly attests, can you ever really go home again?

Below, cross section of kitchen wall. The builders are working off new drawings done for the Arts Club, where the same basic set idea needs to be fitted into a very different configuration of space. This is not like touring sets where the set is simply reassembled in a new space and masked off. JC Almeida, head carp for the Arts Club, oversees this new construction, one of many sets he has built for Ken

Under the brilliant direction of Gordon, the two young criminals set up a little meth lab in the kitchen of Dads house. Kids!

Gordon is set in the shadow of a large steel mill in Hamilton. Morris was inspired by the location when he used to drop Ken off on Ottawa Street to shop for fabric and had a few hours to kill. He would often drive down to the worst part of town and take pictures. The idea of a man and a town abandoned by an invincible, all knowing, all seeing industry, felt compelling and all too real

Poster boy for meth addiction, Charles Manson

Todd Thomson, left, plays the part of young Gordon. This is our first collaboration with this fine young actor who has starred recently in The Patient Hour at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto and as Orlando in As You Like It at Bard On The Beach

Ken MacDonald costume sketches, far left, Gordon, left, Carl, right, Old Gord, and below, left, Deirdre. The sketches are interpretive and in actual fact, because the play is set in the present, the costumes will be shopped in select stores around Vancouver.

Above, set in the process of being broken down in the shop; right, section of set stage left; Left, Caryn, our stage manager, trying to do five things at once; right, Ken MacDonald overseeing set painting in shop; below, right, more set; below, Patrick Costello making crystal meth; below, right, more detail as the set is broken down in the scene shop. Breaking down involves several layers of paint applied with artistry and precision

Production photographs, left, taken by David Cooper in mid rehearsal, show the actors posing in the scene shop, where the set is still in the process of being finished before it moves into the theatre. Right, more detail of set being constructed in shop; far right, another shot of Pippa and Todd, and again, Andrew in close up, left, and below, Todd again, posing on almost finished set of Gordon.Right, Granville bridge looms high above rehearsal. Far right, a bloody t shirt, evidence of wrong doing. Below, left, another view from the theatre on Granville; right, the props department experiments with blood on costumes, in consultation with the props, who provide the blood. Right, Todd poses for David Copper photograph, with Andrew, Pippa, and Patrick in the background. Left, the bridge above The Arts Club

Patrick and Todd discussing the text, right, and, left, following online instructions on how to make crystal meth. It is surprisingly easy to procure information on the internet about concocting illegal substances. If the government is interested in online surveillance, look no further than googling - how to make crystal meth -

Set dec begins in earnest on the Gordon set. Ken, along with Michael Gall, from Arts Club props, add some disgusting and unappetizing detail to the look of the show. This in not an attempt at realism but what amounts to a kind of hyper realism, not unlike the set dec for The Dishwashers

Below, left, Arts Club volunteer, Maureen, patiently sitting through light level session as a light walker. Light walkers are need by lighting designs, such Alan Brodie, below, to take positions the actors take during the play, so that they can be properly lit. Actors seldom walk these positions, since that would cost slightly more than a volunteer.

Speaking of productions, here, above, the construction of another crime factory continues apace. The current government has set is as one of its goals to get tough on crime, which rather than increasing is actually going down. Prisons, being a proven breeding ground for even more crime, the government may reverse this dangerous downward trend in crime

The Burlington Bay James N. Allan Skyway, rising above the narrow channel that separates Burlington Bay from Lake Ontario, offering not only commanding views of Hamilton, but being the closest point Carl and Gordon will ever get to heaven.

Left, Todd and Patrick on set for first day of tech. In a play like this one, the actors usually go through the entire text, and the lighting designer uses this time to buff up his cues. Above, Ken colour treats a David Cooper photo

Old Gord (Andrew Wheeler) left, reaches for the sky, and misses. Right, the prodigal son (Todd Thomson) returns, and below, right, an overnight guest (Pippa Mackie) wears Moms old nightgown in these marvellous production photos from the brilliant David Cooper. David has photographed hundreds of shows and we are always happy when he finds the time to come by and take shots of our dress rehearsal.

More production photos from our dress. Left, Patrick Costello and Todd Thomson confer about how to deal with Dad, right, Andrew Wheeler and Patrick watch the news (which is not the least bit amusing). Below, left, Old Gord confides in his son, Gordon, and below, right Todd Thomson as young Gordon considers his options on Ken MacDonalds dirt encrusted, nicotine stained set, further complemented by Alan Brodies dusty, atmospheric lighting. Below, left, Old Gord takes aim at the enemy within. To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question.

Above, left, Pippa Mackie as Deirdre gives Carl, played by Patrick Costello, the once over, and right ponders her future in the midst of chaos and anarchy. Just another day in Hamilton.

Since 1989 Morris has premiered six plays with The Arts Club, Ken has designed them all. Pictured here, left, Patti Allan and Al Willows in The Ends of the Earth, right Alan Williams and Margaret Barton in Vigil, below left, Shawn MacDonald, Ted Cole and Stephen E Miller in The Dishwashers Right, Wendy Gorling and Earl Pasco in The Ends of the Earth, which premiered in 1993 and won the Governor Generals Literary Award for Drama

Right, probably the most iconic and enduring image from Morris and Kens creative output at The Arts Club, Peter Anderson about to jump off the Magritte inspired ledge in this 1989 production of Seven Stories, which Morris convinced Bill Millerd to produce over a lunch. Morris paid, Bill produced, and the rest is Arts Club history. A second Arts Club production in 2004 included Leslie Jones, left, here from the premiere of Girl in the Goldfish Bowl

Right, and apropos of nothing, Pippa Mackie fills up her time during lighting cues to instruct Patrick Costello and Morris how to do a yoga frog pose. For the record, Morris can execute this position better than Patrick.

Cause for celebration. Opening night of Gordon finds Andrew Wheeler and Pippa Mackie sharing a hug, left, and right, Bill Millerd with his favorite and most cherished employee, stage manager Caryn Fehr

The beautiful city of Vancouver stretches out below us as we make our way back to Toronto to pack for Stratford and begin another exciting journey. Two days after our return, we hear, with dismay, that The Vancouver Playhouse is closing after fifty years. There is a rally quickly planned for that same evening. History changes one thing into another. What will rise from the ashes of this venerable institution?

Left, John Mann sings to a few hundred souls outside The Vancouver Playhouse on its final night. Culture is meant to elevate the mind and the spirit. Without it, there is only landscape and cities are merely real estate. Vancouver has, at least for the time being, lost part of itself.

Cast and crew of Gordon at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver just prior to the last performance of their very successful run. Ken and Morris returned to Stratford and missed all the fun. Centre in the photo, at the back is the extraordinary Caryn Fehr, stage manager, who supplied this photo. To her right, the inimitable Patrick Costello, and beside him, holding his hand, Todd Thomson. To her left, Pippa Mackie and standing left of her, our board operator, Gareth, and below him, Anne Taylor, ASM, who every night ran on stage in the blackout to apply blood to Todds mangled hand. Beside Anne is Andrew Wheeler, who gave, in the opinion of many, the performance of a lifetime, but we think he has a few more in him. It isnt always the a show ends as well as it began.