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October 24, 2002 CU in Prague: Design for the Theatre program goes global



Raymond Marius Boucher and his “assistant”

A maquette designed by Raymond Marius Boucher for Irma La Douce, a production in last year’s Just for Laughs festival, and is currently on tour in Quebec.

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Melanie Takefman

The world will be a stage for Raymond Marius Boucher next month at the Prague Quadrennial. The assistant professor in the Theatre Department’s Design for the Theatre (DFTT) program is the chief designer of Canada’s national and student exhibits in the forum that will take place in the Czech Republic’s capital from June 12-29.

Boucher’s sets will portray Canada’s geography through an oval-shaped horizon line, but will manipulate perspective and scale with costumes and characters. The goal is to create an eclectic but unified theme, “so we recognize right away that it is Canada.”

Boucher, who has been designing sets for companies like the Théâtre du Nouveau Monde since graduating from Concordia’s Theatre Department in 1988, exhibited his work in the 1999 edition of the Prague Quadrennial. Still glowing from the thrill of sharing his work at an international event, Boucher want his students attending “CU in Prague” to benefit from the conference’s concentration of expertise and talent

The Prague Quadrennial takes place every four years and is organized by the International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians (known as OISTAT). This year, students will participate in Scenofest, a didactic endeavour which will include exhibits and workshops.

“I want to explore puppetry,” said Veronica Classen, a second-year DFTT student, who will attend the Quadrennial with Boucher. “Just being there, you meet people doing the same things as you, which is pretty exciting.” Each student had to submit a portfolio to participate in the exhibit.

For Julia Noulin-Merat, another second-year DFTT student, the Quadrennial will be a networking opportunity. “I want to find out where I stand in the artistic community,” she said. It’s an opportunity to sell yourself as a scenographer, and explore graduate school options.

Four other DFTT students have signed for CU in Prague. The team has been fundraised throughout the year. They organized an art auction during the Theatre Department’s production of We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay! last month and a recent concert at Le Swimming garnered $1,200.

This summer, Boucher will teach a course called Special Topic: Prague, which will extend to the Prague Quadrennial. The focus of the course will be on research and the symposium. Similarly, students were invited to submit designs for King Lear, the theme of this year’s student exhibit.

Boucher returned to Concordia in September 2002 being very motivated by sporadic teaching jobs and working on professional design projects with interns from Concordia.

He chose Concordia because he loved the “family feeling” as a student in the Theatre Department. “I was accepted with open arms,” he said. DFTT has 30 students.

Scenography is about finding “new avenues for designers to express an idea, a concept or feelings. And to always keep the voice of the author loud and fresh and relevant.” For example, the current production by theatre students,We Won’t Pay! We Won’t Pay!, is a political farce about oppression and recession. The set, designed by graduating student Amanda Rehbein, depicted Milan’s skyline as caving in on the characters “in a cartoonish way.” Rehbein will begin a master’s degree next year at New York University.

Because scenography is collaboration between the director and specialists in sound, set, costumes, lighting and other stage elements, Boucher encourages teamwork. “Theatre is not ego work,” he said.

He also teaches traditional methods of design like sketching, so as not to depend on computers, which can crash at any time.

Boucher said, “Sometimes you get trapped very quickly in the technique. It’s dangerous to start thinking mechanics before the idea is fully developed.”

He hopes that the Prague Quadrennial will expose his students to new ideas and methods beyond what they learn in the classroom. “It’s important to keep a fresh spirit.”