Designer Spotlight: Sue LePage, Anastasia’s Set and Costume Designer

Sue LePage and photo from Anastasia.

Ontario-based set and costume designer Sue LePage studied at the University of Guelph. She has designed set and/or costumes for over 100 productions at many of Canada’s most important theatres including Tarragon TheatreGrand Theatre, LondonNightwood TheatreCitadel TheatreBanff Centre for the ArtsCanadian StageNational Arts CentreSoulpepper Theatre Company, and Young People’s Theatre.

She has designed for the Stratford Festival, the Shaw Festival, was the winner of the Sterling Award in 2011 for the set design in August: Osage County at theCitadel Theatre and she has twice won the Dora Mavor Moore Award.

How did you come to design the sets and costumes for Anastaisa?
I am afraid I don’t remember how I came to design Anastasia. I had not done much design for dance, but since I did have a lot of experience with period costume and designing new work, Bengt must have thought that I would be a good fit. We worked together well, bringing very different strengths to the table. I enjoy the discussion, experimentation and challenge of bringing something to life for the very first time.

Anastasia Performance Shot
Photo by Talon Gillis.
Photo by Ted Buck.

Where did you draw your inspiration from?
Some of my favourite reference books are of Russia before the revolution. Landscapes, wooden houses, great Russian painters, and even colour photography that was fifty years ahead of it’s time! The similarities and parallels to Canada are striking.

The costumes tell a different story though! Russian peasant dress is very distinctive, and the elegance of the Tsar’s family and the opulence of the Russian Court are astonishing to us today. It was a wonderful opportunity to explore this world and to set it all in motion in the story of Anastasia.

What were some of the challenges you faced?
One challenge that I remember very clearly, was creating a set that could adapt to all the different venues when the show toured. How tall could the scenery be? There would be as little as twelve feet in some theatres and thirty in others. Width and depth and sight lines would vary with each performance space. And it was very important that we not design a ‘one size fits all’ set that would look sad and small in the big theatres.  I learned to think in terms of moving components that could be configured differently both within the show in various scenes, and in different spaces. As with the lighting, a lot of editing and decision making happens on the fly. Ballet Jörgen Canada knows touring!