By TPM Guest Blogger Dominic Mann-Betrand
Lindsay Anne Black came to Toronto for love. Though that particular relationship ultimately didn’t last, luckily for the Toronto performing arts scene she eventually stayed for her art. A native of Norval, Ontario, a rural area outside of Georgetown, Lindsay has worked as a props builder, a scenic artist, a technician, a photographer and a set and costume designer since earning her BAH from Queen’s University. She credits the broad scope of the theatrical formation she received in Kingston, in a liberal arts and academic program where she was streamed into design, scenic art and playwriting, for the wide array of professional jobs she’s undertaken since:
“It gives you a bit of everything,” she says, with characteristic exuberance and thoughtfulness. “What the program does, if anything, is teach you how to go out in the world and then figure out how to learn more about the world afterwards. Consequently, I’ve made a career of doing some of everything since then.” She had a handful of connections when she first moved here, which she gratefully acknowledges for getting her started in the theatrical community. “I was pretty lucky, for sure, and I got to work with some very talented artists doing very interesting things. Most of those people have gone on to do amazing work—people like David Hoekstra or Chris Abraham, co-founder of Go Chicken Go and current Artistic Director at Crow’s Theatre—and I still work with a lot of them to this day.”
No one who’s ever met Lindsay Anne Black would ever accuse her of being lazy. Given the wide scope of her abilities, as well as her willingness to work on a variety of different projects (often at the same time) and in variety of different capacities, there is a strangely intoxicating quality to her frenetic energy. “On a certain level you’re your own boss. There’s an upside and a downside to that. It allows for the freedom do work on interesting projects, but at times that also means that you can’t afford to say ‘no,’ or else you just don’t want to.” The most important draws for her on any given project are the script and its overall vision, the particular timing of the show, and whether or not the crew she’ll be working with are friends, which she says has aspects of good that usually far outweigh the bad.
A few of the productions she’s involved with this summer are: Macbeth for The Driftwood Theatre Group, Mermaid Parade’s presentation of This Wide Night (by Chloë Moss) in the Theatre Passe Muraille Backspace, The Giant’s Garden (by Scott White and Peter Fenton) presented at the Fringe, The Rocky Horror Show for the Randolph Academy at Bathurst Street Theatre, Peter and the Wolf for Theatre Rusticle at the Theatre Centre, and Alphonse (by Wajdi Mouawad) directed and performed by Alon Nashman for both the Winnipeg and Edinburgh Fringe. “When it gets busy you don’t have any time off, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like a job when you love what you do… at least, most of the time!”
Despite her numerous achievements and abilities to multitask, Lindsay is incredibly modest about her talents and decidedly personable. The four-time Dora Award nominee (The Atomic Weight of Happiness, Stand Up Dance; Birnham Wood and April 14, 1912, Theatre Rusticle) and recipient of the Pauline McGibbon Award, also cites her three-and-a-half year tenure in Stratford for cementing her work habits. “The best painting job I ever had was at Stratford, before it changed into the animal it’s now become, and without a doubt credit for that goes to Karen P. Hay.” “KP,” as she was affectionately known, was head Scenic Artist at Stratford until she died from pneumonia in 2005. Thanks to “KP,” Lindsay says she learned how to run a department efficiently, which meant finding an important balance between keeping morale up in the face of constant challenges, while always maintaining a fun work environment that produces a high level of professionalism. She transposed these skills into her own role as Head Scenic Artist at the Tarragon Theatre, a position she took over in 2004. Unfortunately, because of a growing allergy to paint, she’s recently had to retire from scenic art. As she says with a coquettish smirk: “I had a retirement party; I am now officially a retiree!”
Of course, Lindsay is anything but retired. And in fact, her enthusiasm continues to propel her on to an increasing number of projects. Including working with TPM on this season’s The Tale of a Town: Queen West and Those Who Can’t Do…. Lindsay and her partner Michelle Ramsay, who was also the Lighting Design for this newest production of Tale of a Town, live together in Parkdale. “I hated it when I first lived there, but the place quickly grows on you. Parkdale is one of the best Toronto neighborhoods to live in. We moved in before much of the gentrification really started and at that time our landlord promised never to raise the rent. So, who knows, maybe we’ll just have to stay there forever!”
For all things Lindsay check out http://www.lindsayanneblack.ca