Massey Hall

MASSEY HALL, the revered and storied concert hall in downtown Toronto has witnessed generations worth of illustrious talents grace its stage since it was first built in 1894, from Enrico Caruso to Adele, from George Gershwin to the Kinks and Neil Young….Over the years these performers have also prepared and cavorted in the cramped and pedestrian dressing rooms,  tucked behind the stage like a series of rabbit warrens.

Colleen Smith, was at the time the newly appointed Manager of Operations at both Roy Thompson and Massey Hall and while Massey Hall was building a large, capital campaign towards a major renovation, she wanted to make some smaller, interim improvements to enhance the talent experience. Having worked together on similar, modest-scale renovations at the Factory Theatre where she had been the General Manager, she hired me to refresh and renew the Massey Hall Dressing rooms, followed a year later by similar work in the Performers’ Lounge.

The budgets for both projects were modest and the timelines boxed in by a busy Massey Hall performance schedule. The program or rather intent was to create a cleaner, more contemporary environment in which visiting talent could relax before and after their performances. Due to the varied and potentially excessive use these spaces would need to endure, a certain degree of resilience was required in my design choices; I remember one particularly beautiful light fixture, a chandelier made up of several dozen amber and red glass juice glasses, was completely kyboshed by the House Production Manager citing that it would be just asking for trouble…

The outcomes focussed on space organization, flooring, paint, window coverings and furnishings with some minor electrical and plumbing. With the modest budget, I had to balance durability with appearance and sought out vendors of high-end remainder products, clearance-priced commercial grade upholstery and of course…some Ikea.

One of the ironies of this kind of project is that I imagine many of the performers might have preferred the lousy basement hole-in-the-wall vibe that had prevailed for so many decades, with its built-up patina.

I am happy with how this project turned out given the directive and the parameters, yet do think it would have been fun to explore an enhanced hole-in-the-wall aesthetic as well, where hanging from the chandelier would be an open invitation….