Legendary costumier Annette Garceau, a fixture of the Guthrie Theatre costume shop since 1963, will officially retire on August 19. She is the last of the original company of artists selected by Sir Tyrone Guthrie to establish the Twin Cities theatre.
“Her extraordinary career spans decades and continents,” says artistic director Joe Dowling. “Annette Garceau’s contribution to the Guthrie Theatre and the costume profession is simply enormous. With her artistry and craft, she set the standard for excellence.”
Garceau will be honored with a celebratory dinner on August 19 at the Minneapolis Women’s Club, along with a special fashion show featuring her favorite stage costumes that she created for the Guthrie.
The costume designer began her career as an apprentice to a court dressmaker in London. Shortly after World War II, she met Ray Diffen, a professional costumier in London, and her very first assignment was for Stratford-Upon–Avon’s Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, today’s Royal Shakespeare Company, to create a pair of trunkhose for Alec Guinness.
Educated at St. Martin’s College of Art and London University in techniques of dressmaking, costume history, and fashion drawing, Garceau’s artistry and craftsmanship were soon recognized as hallmarks of her work at London’s Old Vic Theatre and Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, in Stratford-Upon Avon. In 1953, Garceau, Diffen, and Tanya Moiseiwitsch were invited by Tyrone Guthrie to come to Stratford, Ontario to begin the Stratford Festival, a new theatre dedicated to Shakespeare and the classics. Garceau worked in Canada for 10 years on a vast array of Festival plays, including the legendary production of Oedipus Rex starring James Mason.
In 1963, Guthrie asked her to accompany him to an American city – Minneapolis—to begin what was to be a theatre dedicated to classical repertory, the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, which became a flagship of the American regional theatre movement. Garceau has lived in Minneapolis since 1963. When she was not creating costumes for Guthrie productions, she was called to Stratford or New York or Hollywood as a freelance costumier. She has created costumes for (among others) Richard Burton, Ralph Richardson, Ginger Rogers, Andy Griffth, Gypsy Rose Lee, Rosemary Clooney, Paulette Goddard, Christopher Plummer, Lorne Greene, Peggy Ashcroft, Michael Redgrave, and Alec Guinness. Her Hollywood and Broadway productions include: Dark at the Top of the Stairs, The World of Suzie Wong, Waltz of the Toreadors, Orpheus Descending, and The Macropolis Secret.
Between seasons, she often shared her theatrical know-how in graduate and master classes at Canada’s National Theatre School in Montreal, and the University of Minnesota Theatre Department.
In 1994 the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) sponsored a retrospective of Garceau’s career. In 1997, USITT honored her with the “Special Citation for Lifetime Achievement."
Currently residing in Minneapolis, Garceau continues to attend all Guthrie opening nights, as well as advising the costume staff on difficult problems. She travels frequently to visit her son and daughter-in-law who reside outside London.