Acclaimed director and writer Morris Panych and set designer Ken MacDonald are partners in work and life. They have collaborated professionally on over 100 projects, including two this past summer: A Little Night Music at the Shaw Festival, and Moby Dick at the Stratford Festival.
In 2001 they formed their own company, 2x2ltd theatrical enterprises, a decision that led them to consider their legacies.
Ken explains, “We had to make wills when we formed a company, so that got us thinking. We decided we would like to encourage people to stay in theatre, so we were looking for an organization to leave a legacy to.”
Both Morris and Ken are UBC alumni, although their years as students didn’t overlap and they didn’t meet until many years after graduation.
Ken recalls, “My first year at UBC was right after the Summer of Love. It was a golden time, very hippie, very anti-Vietnam war. I was a member of the UBC Musical Society and I remember that we did Hello Dolly and West Side Story. Jeff Hyslop, Brent Carver and Ann Mortifee were all there at that time.”
Morris remembers coming to UBC from Edmonton in 1973. “I was very happy to get out to the coast. My teachers were really very good, even though the creative writing department was just getting started at that time.”
After graduation, Ken became a high school teacher in Richmond. One day a friend asked him to design a set for a Belfry Theatre production. “I did it, and then I did his next production, and now I’ve been doing this for thirty years.” In that time, Ken has received a Gemini, 16 Jessie Richardson awards and a Dora Mavor Moore award for his set designs.
Morris’ first play was produced in 1982, and since then he has written, directed and acted in dozens of plays and has twice received the Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama in addition to over 12 Jessie Richardson awards and four Dora Mavor Moore awards.
Both men have endowed prizes at UBC: Morris in creative writing, and Ken in theatre design.
Morris explains, “Even though we were not at UBC at the same time, it’s a history we shared. We both got a lot from that institution. But it’s more than fond memories: we both believe the Theatre Department is an important and worthwhile program.
“We think it’s important for people to give where they think their money will be used in the most useful and beneficial way, and I think that giving money to a university is just the right thing to do.”
Ken adds, “And we have felt fantastic about this decision ever since we made it.”