University of Lethbridge glad to be back on stage with Design for Living


The University of Lethbridge is excited to be back, live on stage with  their production of Noel Coward’s 1932  comedy “Design For Living,” running Nov. 16 - 20  at 7:30 pm in the University Theatre.

Melanie Friesen, Andrew Burniston and Carter Debusschere rehearse for Design For Living. Photo by Richard Amery


“Design For Living” is about three young and up and coming artists , Gilda (Melanie Friesen), Otto (Andrew Burniston ) and Leo ( Carter Debusschere) coming of age who find themselves in the middle of a love triangle.


“ It’s a play (director) Jay Whitehead and I wanted to put on stage a couple of years ago,”  but we couldn’t because  of Covid,” said set and costume designer  and faculty member Julia Wasilewski.


“It’s a comedy of manners. Noel Coward really was ahead of his time,” she said, adding   the play explores love and gender.

She said  though Coward penned the play almost 100 years ago and  would have got into trouble over the subject matter if  not handled delicately, the theme of love is universal regardless of gender.

“ Love is love is love,” she said, adding that is what the main trio discover as they resolve their issues.

 The 11 cast members play 12  characters living at the end of the roaring ’20s and beginning of the Great Depression, 1928-1932 in Paris, London and New York City. 


They have been rehearsing since the beginning of October.


“A lot happened during those years,” Wasilewski said noting she and her crew had to  create three different apartment sets spanning several different years, and supply  numerous props,  all of which had to be sanitized and made Covid safe.


Assistant director Kacie Hall, who was involved with last year’s Zoom theatre presentation during which the cast rehearsed and  performed  from their individual residences, is excited to be back on stage.


“We‘re very excited  to be back in this space in front of people,” Hall said, emphasizing the issues explored in the play are still relevant today.

“Surprisingly it is. It explores sexuality and different relationships,” she said.

Actor Andrew Burniston, who plays Otto, is excited to be in front of an audience.


“ It feels so good to be  in the same space again. With Zoom, I don’t know what it was, we may have created a whole new medium,” he said, adding he is excited to play a character living in the ’20s and 30s.

 He is excited about opening night.

“ I’m terrified. But I’m excited. It has been a lot of work. It has been a really long rehearsal process, learning all the dialogue. We rehearse five to six nights a week with regular school work on top of that,” he said.


“ So I’m really excited to see people in the audience and show them what we’ve been working on,” he said.


Melanie Friesen, Andrew Burniston and Carter Debusschere rehearse for Design For Living. Photo by Richard Amery

Melanie Friesen, who plays Gilda, the apex of the love triangle is excited to be cast as a romantic lead.

“ I’m a plus sized actress. You don’t see a lot of plus sized actresses cast as a love interest,” Friesen said.


“It’s been really rewarding to be in this play.  I really feel beautiful,” she continued, adding she is enjoying dressing up in period costumes.


Carter Debusschere, who plays Leo,  found  the dialogue to be  challenging.


“It is in no way how people would talk, using five words to say one word.  The language is almost  Shakespearian,”  Debusschere said.

“Leo is a playwright who is just starting to have some success which  starts to affect  his relationships with Gilda and Otto,” he said emphasizing a lot of effort has gone into Covid safety.


Melanie Friesen, Andrew Burniston and Carter Debusschere rehearse for Design For Living. Photo by Richard Amery

After Nov. 1, 2021, all individuals aged 12 and over accessing our campus are required to be vaccinated, this includes all members of public attending our performances and events. The Government of Alberta has launched a vaccine record service and has created QR code to help identify vaccinated Albertans. Event attendees will be asked to show this proof and photo ID, prior to entering any venue. Attendees who cannot provide this attestation will be refused entry and no refunds

will be issued.

Masks are mandatory on campus and in all performance venues, for the full duration of the performance.

Noel Coward’s “Design For Living” runs Nov. 16-20 in University theatre at 7:30 p.m. each night.

Tickets are $18 for adults, $15 seniors and alumni and $12 for students.

— By Richard Amery, L.A. Beat editor