Tom Schenk, born 1951, started his theatrical career in 1970 as a ballet dancer in Wiesbaden. After four years he chose in favour of his greater talent (both parents were painters) and switched to set design. Until 1976 he was assisting great designers - Achim Freyer, John Gunter, Ezio Frigerio and many others - at the Bühnen der Stadt Köln, where he made his debut, appropriately, for a ballet production.
In 1977 he settled in his native town The Hague as a freelance set and costume designer. Nederlands Dans Theater became his stepping stone to the dancing world. With choreographers like Jiří Kylián, Nils Christe, Nacho Duato and William Forsythe he designed a great many ballets all over Europe and beyond. Parallel to that he specialized in drama productions, for practically all the Dutch companies (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague, Utrecht etc.) and gradually more and more for German theatres such as Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf, Bonn, Darmstadt, Essen, Schaubühne Berlin, Münchner Kammerspiele, Thaliatheater Hamburg.
In Holland he is best known for his series of environmental theatre designs at the remarkable Appel Theater in The Hague. With director Erik Vos he works on some twenty productions and in doing so he plays a major part in creating the unique, artistic identity of this playhouse. More recently another artistic partnership developed. With Antoine Uitdehaag he is presently doing his seventeenth drama production, always looking for new challenges together in different places with various European companies.
Opera is progressively getting priority on his agenda. Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas (1995), Gounod’s Faust (1996), Janáček’s Katya Kabanova (1997), Monteverdi’s Orfeo (1999) and Verdi’s Falstaff (2001); most of these directed by Erik Vos. Presently, with director Yoshi Oida several projects are being developed: Le chant de la terre premiered in Rouen and will tour Paris and New York, Curlew River will follow the same course and Alex Brücke Langer is planned for the year after, and Britten’s The Death in Venice in Prague State Opera (2009).
Tom Schenks costume-designs and theatre space-impressions developed more and more to pieces of art in their own right. Exhibitions of his work connected to (or indeed disconnected from) theatre productions were held in various theatres and galleries.
Update: February 2009