Ken MacDonald made his debut with Pacific Opera Victoria as set designer for the 2012 production of Macbeth, a co-production with Opéra de Québec. He returned in 2016 to design a spectacular set for a production of The Barber of Seville that has been remounted at opera companies across North America. He is returning to Pacific Opera in 2020 to design the Canadian première of Jonathan Dove’s Flight.
An award-winning set designer based in Toronto and Vancouver. Ken MacDonald designs for all of the major theatre companies in Canada. His career has long been associated with that of playwright and director Morris Panych, as actor, and director, but primarily as designer. Together, they have completed over 100 theatre projects.
He has designed across Canada and has garnered a Gemini, 17 Jessie Richardson Awards, a Betty Mitchell Award, a San Diego Critics Award, and four Dora Mavor Moore Awards.
His opera credits include The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat (Banff Centre) and Susannah, The Rake’s Progress, and The Threepenny Opera, all for Vancouver Opera.
Recent and upcoming theatre credits include Frankenstein Revived, Private Lives (Stratford Festival); A Thousand Splendid Suns (American Conservatory Theater, San Francisco; Old Globe Theatre, San Diego; Theatre Calgary; Arena Stage, Washington, D.C.); The Madness of George III, Engaged, Our Town, (Shaw Festival); The Shoplifters (Arts Club Theatre).
Ken was educated in Vancouver where he graduated from the Art Education Department at UBC in 1972 and received his teaching certificate. He taught high school art for five years before leaving the profession and setting off on his own, beginning as resident designer for Victoria’s Belfry Theatre from 1977 to 1980.
Ken has also served as an art director for music video and a designer for film. His design for The Overcoat was featured at the Prague Quadrenniel in 1999.
Arguably, the most unforgettable component of this Barber of Seville is its jaw-dropping set. Designed by Ken MacDonald, one of Canada’s most gifted set designers, it is inspired by the organic architecture of Antoni Gaudí. Beautifully lit, it’s like a fantastic confection, both modern and timeless, a magnificent cake decoration, perhaps. Towers and other edifices resemble giant whitepaper cut-outs, curled and curving in a delightful way.
Adrian Chamberlain, Times Colonist, review of The Barber of Seville, Pacific Opera Victoria, 2016
Panych and Macdonald’s plan to bring life to the opera succeeds most brilliantly in the set, stage and costume design. In fact, the set becomes another character – a star of the show. From the opening moments, a daring tone is set: a scrim … shows credits for the opera, while the orchestra plays the ouverture from the pit. Panych and Macdonald set the entire design theme – deconstructed tartan – in these opening minutes … One feels as if the play takes place within the demented weave of the witches’ sorcery.
Brent Schaus, Monday Magazine, Review of Macbeth at Pacific Opera Victoria, 2012