Carey Wong has worked for over 45 years as a stage designer and arts administrator in the United States, Canada, and abroad. He has designed sets and/or costumes for over 300 productions of operas, plays, musicals, and ballets, as well as art installations and themed environments. Currently a freelance designer and theatre consultant based in Gig Harbor, Washington, he began his career as General Production Manger and Resident Designer of Portland Opera for eight seasons. This was followed by two seasons as Artistic Administrator and Resident Designer at Opera Memphis. While at Portland Opera, Mr. Wong designed sets and costumes for 12 new productions including the American premiere of Ernst Krenek’s LIFE OF ORESTES (in an English translation by the composer commissioned for the premiere), the world premiere of Bernard Herrmann’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS, and a rare staging of Carl Maria von Weber’s DER FREISCHÜTZ. Three of his Portland productions were shared by Seattle Opera.
Mr. Wong has designed scenery for many American opera companies including Seattle Opera, Pittsburgh Opera, Kentucky Opera, Opera Carolina, Opera/Omaha, Edmonton Opera, Calgary Opera, San Francisco’s Western Opera Theatre, New York’s Valhalla Wagnerfest, Orlando Opera, Anchorage Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Opera Southwest, Long Beach Opera, Tacoma Opera, Knoxville Opera, Augusta Opera, Piedmont Opera Theatre, Sugar Creek Symphony and Song, and Eugene Opera. Notable opera projects included the first production of Carlisle Floyd’s revised version of WILLIE STARK directed by the composer for Opera Carolina, the world premiere of Kenton Coe’s RACHEL for Knoxville Opera, and two productions of MADAMA BUTTERFLY for Eugene Opera and Tacoma Opera that traveled widely throughout the United States. Sets that Mr. Wong designed for the above companies have additionally been used by Artpark, Michigan Opera Theatre, Virginia Opera, Austin Opera, Fort Worth Opera, San Antonio Opera, Baltimore Opera, Vancouver Opera, Manitoba Opera, Royal Opera Canada, Opera/Columbus, Dayton Opera, Toledo Opera, Syracuse Opera, Opera Theater of Rochester, Mercury Opera Rochester, Greater Buffalo Opera, Madison Opera, Mobile Opera, Boise Opera, Nevada Opera, Fargo-Moorhead Opera, and Pensacola Opera. His production of THE MAGIC FLUTE for Orlando Opera traveled to the Macao International Music Festival and Beijing Music Festival in 2003.
Carey Wong’s work with theatre companies includes designs for the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, ACT Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, The Village Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Group Theatre, Empty Space Theatre, Tacoma Actors Guild, Portland Center Stage, Portland Repertory Theater, The Musical Theatre Company, Oregon Children’s Theatre Company, Alliance Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Arizona Theatre Company, Baltimore Center Stage, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Mixed Blood Theatre, Phoenix Theatre, Childsplay, Prince Music Theatre, and Minneapolis’ Hey City Theater. Noteworthy assignments have included the world premiere of Laura Schellhardt’s THE COMPARABLES directed by Braden Abraham for the Seattle Repertory Theatre; the world premieres of David Wagoner’s FIRST CLASS directed by Kurt Beattie and Lee Blessing’s GOING TO ST. IVES directed by Leslie Swackhamer for ACT Theatre; and Moliere’s THE MISER directed by Dennis Bigelow for Portland Center Stage’s inaugural season. He has designed 37 shows for the Seattle Children’s Theatre, 19 of which were world premieres including Cheryl L. West’s ADDY: AN AMERICAN GIRL STORY directed by Linda Hartzell and David Henry Hwang’s TIBET THROUGH THE RED BOX directed by Francesca Zambello. Mr. Wong’s design work has also been used by Nearco Producciones in Spain.
Carey has designed for television. His set designs for Gian Carlo Menotti’s Spoleto USA production of THE CONSUL (presented during the first American Spoleto Festival in Charleston, South Carolina) were seen nationally when that opera was aired on PBS as part of its “Great Performances” series.
For 17 seasons, Mr. Wong was the Resident Designer of the Opera Theatre at Wildwood at Wildwood Park for the Arts where he designed a total of 53 opera and musical productions. He was also the company’s Director of Productions. Among the shows that Carey designed for Wildwood were three world premieres – PRECIOUS FEW by Terry Sneed, AS LONG AS A CHILD REMEMBERS by Raymond Pannell, and CLAIR DE LUNE by Libby Larsen.
Additionally, Carey Wong has designed environmental and commercial installations for art galleries and non-profit organizations including the American Institute of Architects – Portland Chapter, the Oregon Historical Society, the Portland Chinatown Museum, Eugene’s Jordan Schnitzer Art Museum, the Corvallis Arts Center, the Anchorage Winter Olympics Organizing Committee, and Tacoma’s Opera Alley business consortium.
Mr. Wong was awarded a 2006 Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship. He is a past recipient of a National Institute for Music Theater Training Grant and of a National Endowment for the Arts Bicentennial Exchange Fellowship. The latter allowed him to spend six months in Britain to observe the design and production management components of the Royal National Opera, English National Opera, Opera North, Welsh National Opera, Scottish Opera, and Kent Opera. He also received an Oregon Arts Commission Individual Artist Fellowship that allowed him to travel to Italy to observe the work of Italian stage designers. During his Yale career, he was the recipient of a Connecticut Research Foundation Grant.
Mr. Wong’s designs have been included in a number of exhibitions during his career. THE WORLD TRANSFORMED, a retrospective of the last 40 years of his work, was on view at the Portland Chinatown Museum during April – September, 2022, after which it was on view in the lobby of the Seattle Children’s Theatre at Seattle Center from October 2022 – January, 2023. An expanded version of this show will be on view at the Washington State History Museum beginning in October, 2025. RE-CREATED WORLDS: THE COLLABORATIVE VISION OF STAGE DESIGN toured throughout North America for five years and was a survey of Carey’s first 30 years of designs. This show was developed by Visual Arts Resources in Eugene, Oregon, with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. Mr. Wong had work included in the United States entry for the 1991 Prague Quadrennial – MOZART IN AMERICA: DESIGN FOR OPERA. The exhibition received the gold medal award that year for best national entry and was also exhibited at New York’s Library for the Performing Arts in Lincoln Center later the same year. Prior to that, Mr. Wong’s designs were included in a number of group shows in the Pacific Northwest. His first significant one-person show was at the American Institute of Architect’s Gallery in Portland, Oregon. It was titled CREATING WITHIN THE BLACK BOX.
Over the years, Carey Wong has authored articles for LIVE DESIGN (formerly, ENTERTAINMENT DESIGN and THEATRE CRAFTS MAGAZINE). His articles have covered an array of design topics – supergraphics for sets and costumes, scenic elements made from fibers, Biedermeier gown appliqués, creatively recycling sets, and building scale models. More recently, his designs and writings have appeared in such publications as STAGE OF THE ART and AMERICAN THEATRE.
Mr. Wong has been an adjunct faculty member of the University of Puget Sound’s Theatre Department and Seattle University’s Department of Fine Arts where he taught introductory stage design to undergraduates. From spring term of 2021 through spring term of 2022, he mentored graduate students and taught a scenic design studio class at the University of Washington’s School of Drama. He has designed opera productions for Florida State University, Ohio University, Portland State University, and Western Washington University.
Carey Wong is a Summa Cum Laude graduate of Yale College, where he received his B.A. and Honors with Exceptional Distinction in the Scholars of the House program. His thesis was an historical reconstruction of Ben Jonson’s masque of 1620, NEWES FROM THE NEW WORLD DISCOVER’D IN THE MOONE, in its American premiere. He received a John Courtney Murray Traveling Fellowship for further research and study in Britain while writing a series of slide lectures on Stuart court masques. Thereafter, he attended the Yale School of Drama.