Denyse Karn

Published on: February 18, 2014

Filled Under: Arts: 9-5

Views: 1740

If you’ve ever worked in Theatre in Toronto, chances are you know Denyse Karn. With almost 3 decades of experience under her belt, I’m pretty sure she could produce a show by herself, play all the parts, while calling it simultaneously,  and it would still be a smash. Most recently she’s the Producer/General Manager at Nightwood Theatre and she’s heading up an amazing new campaign called 10, 000 Women which allows you to honour a woman in your life while supporting Nightwood. It’s the best of all worlds!

1. Where do you work? Can you sum it up in 3 sentences or less?
I am presently the Producer/General Manager at Nightwood Theatre. But I have also been a Set/Costume and Projection Designer for the past 29 years and have had the incredible opportunity to do both the jobs that I love at Nightwood.

2. Why the arts? What’s made you focus your extra energy on theatre?
I have been involved in theatre since I was 12 years old. I started as an actor, went to Ryerson Theatre School when I was 17 and just started working in Toronto theatre when I graduated. I started designing during theatre school when we began to produce our own plays and fell in love with it. Theatre has always been my choice of expression. I have been lucky that I have been able to make a living doing it and have not had a “real” job for over 25 years. I think you always put extra energy into the things that you love.

3. The arts have a reputation for being lots of work and little pay – true or false? Care to elaborate?
True, but it is also incredibly satisfying. I would much rather work a lot for what I love than make a lot of money. But if anyone wants to give me or Nightwood a lot of money, we will take it.
Donate to our 10,000 women campaign:

4. What’s the best thing about working in theatre in Toronto?

The amount and range of incredible work that is being done everyday! I lived in Halifax for 10 years and when I moved back I couldn’t stop going to see everything. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed just enjoying everyone else’s work.

5. What’s the worst thing about working in theatre in Toronto?
The amount and range of incredible work that is being done everyday! I can’t get to see it all…

6. Describe (in 3 sentences or less) what your favourite memory is from your current job.
Ok there are too many….the one I would pick is the opening night of THE PENELOPIAD at Buddies, celebrating the work of the 26 women who made that show happen and a cop coming into Talullah’s to tell me that my car had been torched….and I laughed.

7. What’s the last play that you saw that really made an impression on you?
Other than THE PENELOPIAD (I love Margaret Atwood’s writing and watching those 13 incredible women on stage but I am biased because I designed and produced it), I would say Robert Lepage’s LIPSYNCH, I was engaged for the whole 9 hours….incredible. Recently, Come Back Little Sheba and Helen’s Necklace at the Shaw Festival and Studio 180’s The Normal Heart which is coming back this month at Buddies.

8. If you could do any other job, arts professional or not, what would it be?
I think about this every once and a while…I do so many different jobs in the theatre…designing, producing etc. I don’t think I will every have to do anything else. But if all the theatre’s closed down and I was forced to choose, I would be a photographer and a graphic designer.

9. If the Toronto theatre scene was a woman, what advice would you offer her?
Sorry, I didn’t know she wasn’t a woman. But I would tell her, “Speak up and take centre stage please”.

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