Behind the Scenes
Exhibition Celebrates the Genius of SPU Set Designer Don Yanik
In two decades of scenic design at Seattle
Pacific University, Theatre Department Chair Don Yanik has created
sets for 103 productions and fashioned 888 costumes.
| Don Yanik holds a one-quarter-inch scaled model of the set of “Godspell,”
performed in SPU’s E.E. Bach Theatre in 1993.
During the month of January 2005, a retrospective display of
his work, “Don Yanik — 20 Years of Theatre Design,” was installed at SPU’s Art Center Gallery. It showcased the genius of a fertile mind through sketches, photographs,
drafting blueprints, fabric swatches, set models, finished costumes, and props.
Recognized as one of the most talented scenographers on the West Coast, Yanik not only designs five Seattle Pacific productions a year, but he also designs for outside professional
theatres such as Seattle’s Repertory Theatre, A Contemporary Theatre, Taproot Theatre, and Civic Light Opera. He has even applied his expertise as restoration designer of the British home of renowned Christian author C.S. Lewis. But whether his opus is an elaborate $80,000 set in downtown Seattle, or one built on a considerably more modest budget for SPU’s E.E. Bach Theatre, both must be utterly convincing.
“It’s surprising how we make it happen time and again at SPU, even with tight budgets,”
says Yanik. During his tenure, Seattle Pacific has earned a reputation for high-quality
production values and intensive learning opportunities for students.
“The students are the ones who make the design come to life,” explains Yanik. “They build it, paint it, and dress it, and once a show opens, they run it all. If there’s a problem,
I don’t rush in and fix it. I may chew my nails, but the crew has to solve it.”
Students must look within the arts community
for solutions, and that’s where Yanik’s personal connections are gold. He knows scores of marketing and casting directors, actors, stage managers, and theatre critics who are willing to help SPU students succeed.
A Man for All Seasons took to SPU’s James Leon Chapman Stage in late January and early February. “We were stretched by that one,” says Yanik. “I wanted to create an environment
that evoked the period yet didn’t get in the way of the director’s vision for the
production. The design provided a map to accommodate the various scenes and locales.”
Following the Homecoming matinee performance
of A Man for All Seasons on Saturday,
February 5, 75 faculty, staff, and alumni gathered in the Art Center Gallery. Many of them past participants in SPU productions, they came to view Yanik’s work, reminisce, and celebrate the legacy of Seattle Pacific theatre.“The exhibit was a part of the students’ legacy at SPU as well,” says Yanik. “It was wonderful to hear them comment on their work and the sense of community they shared. It was an occasion I’ll never forget.”
But for all the joy he has experienced in designing and watching sets come to life, Yanik’s favorite moment comes once a run
ends and a set has been struck. Why? “A ghost-lighted, empty stage signals a new beginning.”
— BY CLINT KELLY
— PHOTO BY LAURENCE CHEN
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