4 Questions: Gillian Gallow
This article is part of our series 50 Years of Disruption, in celebration of the Department of Theatre’s 50th Anniversary. In it, we’ll ask each participant four questions about themselves and their time at York.
1. Who are you?
I am Gillian Gallow (BFA 2004), and I am a Toronto-based Set and Costume designer for theatre and opera. I was lucky enough to discover set design in high school, and so I entered the York theatre program with an immediate focus on production. In my first year there was a strike at York and this actually changed my life for the best. Once we got the news that the strike would not be resolved before Christmas I used the extra time to volunteer at the theatre in my home town of Oakville. While working backstage I met Jennifer Jansen who recommended I apply to the Blyth Festival as a Production Assistant. With her support I got the job and spent the summer there as a P.A. Carpenter. I met established theatre professionals who helped me begin my theatre career, and I also met my partner, Christopher Morris, who I now have a 4 year old daughter with. So while at York I began assisting designers who I had met at Blyth, and right after graduating I went to the Stratford Festival as an Assistant Designer. After spending a lot of time assisting, a few directors and theatre companies began to take a chance on me and I was able to slowly build my design career. I worked for many seasons at The Grand Theatre and with many independent companies around Toronto. Now I’ve designed at theatres across Canada, including Shaw Festival, Stratford Festival, Citadel, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Theatre Calgary, National Arts Centre, COC and Soulpepper. I also love developing new works and I’ve had the great fortune to travel to Georgia, Pakistan, Nunavut, Israel and China to research and develop new scripts from a design perspective. I’m currently designing the costumes for Hadrian with the Canadian Opera Company, and coming up I’m designing The Runner with Human Cargo as well as productions at The Factory Theatre, Soulepper and The Shaw Festival. This year I was awarded The Virginia and Myrtle Cooper Award for Costume Design which was a lovely honour and will allow me to travel!
2. What was your favourite moment during your time in the Theatre Department, and why?
Honestly, graduation. I was ready to get out there and work full time.
3. What comment, quotation, statement, or action that a professor—or classmate—offered had the greatest impact on you?
I was very tense and worried about my costume sketches for my fourth year practical design. I expressed my frustration to my professor, Teresa Przybylski, and she gave me the best advice: “What you need to do Gillian, is go into a room with a bottle of wine and draw.” I still remind myself of this all the time because I realized I was taking myself too seriously and I really just needed to relax.
4. Is there a way you incorporate a particular aspect of your theatre training in your current work?
I chose to go to university and not a conservatory style of school because I wanted a broader education. I think this is crucial for all artists. You need to engage with and think about the world outside of art and life experience is the most valuable thing you can get. Meet people with other interests and ways of thinking, travel, challenge yourself and your assumptions.