Set & Costume Sources

Designers agree that Toronto has wonderful crafts and tech people who do just about anything well. “It's partly because of our proximity to the Shaw and Stratford Festivals [which] fostered generations of designers and technicians who are still able to take the time to create beautiful things,” says Patricia Flood, who also credits Toronto's film industry for “training a whole generation of technicians and special effects people.”

Michael Levine likes prop maker Grace Negatsu, mask maker/sculptor Karyn Rodd, and costume maker Avril Stevenson who “has a talent for making beautiful period clothes with the technical capacity to make them work for the theatre.” At the Canadian Opera Company workshop, he's found “a highly creative group of craftsman, capable of doing almost anything.”

Flood likes two of the many good shops that build and paint sets, Hot Sets and McWood, and says Paragon is a first rate prop shop. She says U.B. Signs & Graphics is the place to go “in the film industry for all your graphic needs.”

Sean Breaugh says Seamless Costumes “does mega musicals and films brilliantly-terrific staff, wonderful to work with, and utterly professional.” For shoes, he goes to a talented artisan, Sarah Rotering. Baroque costume specialist Dora Rust-D'Eye provides “brilliant variations on period themes for renowned Opera Atelier.” His millinery pick is Jane Abbott, a “talented artisan, personable, and knowledgeable.” Wotever Inc. provides costume kit rentals/fit up for film.

Paul Court frequents Active Surplus, “a marvelous and chaotic collection of used, obscure, and obsolescent electronic and mechanical components. Great for building contraptions, gadgets, and retro futuristic gewgaws. Look for the stuffed gorilla in the front.”

Shawn Kerwin likes Designer Fabric Outlet for notions, accessories, and fabrics that include upholstery and dress, wools/suiting. “You can rent one-meter samples to take away and show others,” she says. Charlotte Dean also uses Designer Fabric Outlet, which “has just about any fabric you might need for interiors or costuming.”

Kerwin adds that there are numerous fabric shops on Queen Street West between Spadina and Augusta. “Gerrard Street East between Green Wood and Coxwell is a very large East Indian neighborhood with many sari shops, great for fabric.” Her favorites? Kala Kendar and Sonu Saree. And Spadina Ave. from College Street to Queen Street in Chinatown has “great stores for baskets, bamboo” and more.

Lighting/Sound Resources

Brad Trenaman trusts DMX guru Steve Plotkin. “Although Steve still holds down his day job as a board operator for the CBC, he is the man you can always call if you have a DMX gremlin that you can't quite figure out. Not only will he guide you in the right direction, you'll probably learn ten things you did not know about the console you're using.”

Midnite Hour Productions consistently expands “its inventory to include the latest in lighting technology backed by one of the best repair shops in the city,” says Trenaman.

Eric Bartnes joins Trenaman in applauding The Source Shop. Bartnes also likes Radiant Concepts, “on time, price is fair, nice people, and when you are jammed up, they open on a Sunday, make you a couple of gobos and deliver them to you on site,” he says.

For sound-related issues, Trenaman goes to RP Dynamics, a small company with “the know-how and the equipment to solve even the most complex problems” and that is particularly good with wireless systems.

Researching a Design

Court says the Royal Ontario Museum boasts 19 curatorial departments and many spectacular exhibits. The Bata Shoe Museum displays “shoes from all over the world and practically every period of history.” And, adds Court, the shoe-filled “building itself is a post-modernist take on a shoe box.” He says you can see “textiles from around the world, including fabrics, ceremonial cloths, garments, carpets, quilts, and related artifacts” at the Textile Museum of Canada. The TMC “has a permanent collection of over 10,000 pieces…categorized geographically from Pre-Columbian and Coptic textiles, to Indian and Burmese temple hangings, to William Morris fabrics.”

Dean uses the Toronto Reference Library's Picture Collection, “loads of files collected over the years that reference just about anything. Just think Google image, but in files, and tactile.” She visits the CBC Broadcasting Centre (appointment required, fee charged). Flood does too and says it's worth the fee. “The CBC design library has been working with costume, set, and graphic designers for years and their collection and the help they give you to find things is very special,” says Flood.

Dean and Levine also like Robarts Library, available to members. Kerwin finds books for theatre, art, and architecture at Theatre Books, Pages, Ballenford Books, and David Mirvish Books/Books on Art.

Venues Designers Like

The Factor Theater makes three lists. Kerwin says along with Theatre Passe Muraille, the Tarragon Theatre, and the Theatre Centre, it does “some of the more progressive work.” Levine's similar list includes the Ice House at Harbourfront and the new Opera House, still under construction. Companies he likes include Necessary Angel, Da Da Kamera, Dancemakers, and the Toronto Dance Theatre. Dean says old Massey Hall is the “best place to hear a concert acoustically.” The Tarragon makes her list, too, for great Canadian plays, as does the Royal Alexandra Theatre.

Bartnes says Arcadian Court is an “LD's dream except for the lack of rigging point.” The Sheraton Centre Grand Ballroom, redesigned by a techie, has “lots of power and circuits, points galore.” Trenaman's favorites are The Betty Oliphant Theatre at The National Ballet School, which has “one of the largest stages in the city and one of the best lighting inventories to match, yet seats less than 300 people. [The] crew always goes way above and beyond,” he says. He also likes the CIBC Stage at Harbourfront Centre, a 3,000+-seat venue overlooking Lake Ontario. The Living Arts Centre in Mississauga is “simply gorgeous” and has excellent acoustics.


Active Surplus: 800-465-5487, Canadian Opera Company Workshop: 416-537-7885,

Grace Negatsu: 416-588-3693

Hot Sets: 416-778-4114 (John Bankson)

McWood: 416-504-0965 (Mac Thomas)

Paragon Props: 905 469-0061,

UB Signs & Graphics: 416-533-6494


Avril Stevenson: 905-468-5156

Designer Fabric Outlet: 416-53-2810,

Dora Rust-D'Eye: 416-962-4878

Jane Abbott: 416-603-3843

Kala Kendar: 416-463-3111,

Karyn Rodd: 416-535-3268

Seamless Costumes: 416-533-3434 (Sharon Secord),

Sarah Rotering:

Wotever Inc:


Midnight Hour Productions: 905-238-0006 (Marty Anderson),,

Radiant Concepts Inc.:

RP Dynamics: (Roland Danner),

Steve Plotkin:

The Source Shop: (Louise Nardella),


Royal Ontario Museum: 416-586-8000,

Theatre Books: 416-922-7175,

Pages Books: 416-598-1447,

Ballenford Books: 416-588-0800,

David Mirvish Books/Books on Art: 416-531-9975,

The Bata Shoe Museum:

Textile Museum of Canada:

CBC Broadcasting Centre: 416-205-3242

Robarts Library: 416-978-8450

Toronto Reference Library: 416-395-5577


Shawn Kerwin advises visitors to check two free weekly papers for current schedules at: or


Eric Bartnes:

Sean Breaugh:

Paul Court:

Patricia Flood:

Shawn Kerwin:

Michael Levine:

Brad Trenaman: