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Pacific Opera Victoria's Barber of Seville includes dynamic duo

Morris Panych and Ken MacDonald met at the Belfry Theatre more than 30 years ago and have collaborated on numerous shows
Panych and MacDonald 4
Director Morris Panych, left, and set designer Ken MacDonald have collaborated on over 100 shows after meeting over 30 years ago in Victoria. The Toronto-based duo are currently in Victoria working on the comedic opera The Barber of Seville.

A struggling actor and a rookie set designer would seem an unlikely match. But don’t tell that to Morris Panych and Ken MacDonald, who met at the Belfry Theatre more than 30 years ago and have collaborated on close to 100 shows together since.

The married duo makes a formidable team with Panych now an esteemed director and writer and MacDonald designing sets. After 30 years of teamwork, neither of them have any intention of slowing down any time soon.

Everyone knows there are risks that come with mixing personal and professional lives but Panych and MacDonald have managed to find the perfect balance.

“Our jobs are so different; I’m creating the space for him to put his play on,” MacDonald says, adding things can get tense between him and Panych but not very often.

“He knows all my tricks so he can call me out when I’m being lazy,” he says.

For Panych, the separation of work life and home life is something he thinks about regularly.

“Suddenly, I’m in a position where it’s up to me to say yes or no,” Panych says. “At home, it’s an equal partnership but at work, there’s a natural hierarchy.”

The two are currently working on their rendition of Pierre Beaumarchais’ The Barber of Seville, a comedic opera, which they bring to Victoria’s Royal Theatre Feb. 11 to 21.

Despite any personal disagreements throughout the creative process along the way, both agree the final product fills them with pride.

“Especially when it’s an original piece that Morris writes,” MacDonald says. “We can step back and say, ‘we did that.’ I’m proud of him and he’s proud of me,” – a sentiment that Panych echoes.

“When we walk in and see Ken’s set under light and all the elements come together, that’s the most satisfying moment,” says Panych.

The duo moved from Vancouver to Toronto to take advantage of the theatre community and festival scene. Both are looking forward to returning to the West Coast for their February production.

“We’ve spent so much time in Vancouver that it feels more like home and Victoria is a part of that,” Panych says.

MacDonald has been experimenting with all-white Spanish-style architecture for the Barber of Seville set and Panych is working on exploring the darker aspects of the comedy for this rendition.

“It’s an old-fashioned theatre with a nice space and I’m hoping it will look beautiful,” MacDonald says.