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Set Design and Décor -- A 10-Step Program

Set Design and Décor -- A 10-Step Program

Step 2 - Talk to People

After you've read the play and started to formulate some ideas about the set, there are two essential fonts of information to consult before you get started:

The Director: Ask the director about any ideas that they would like to see incorporated into the set, especially whether they have any special preference for placement of exits and entrances, whether they want a detailed set or a minimal one, and whether they want to use platforms (and if they do, whether there are any particular areas where they would particularly like to see a platform). Directors often have ideas about set design and décor, like the fact that they'd really like to have a certain type of window, or they want a spiral staircase, or there needs to be a desk large enough to do acrobatics on, and you should make every effort to give them what they need to work with -- within reason. Directors are not always the most practical people in the world when it comes to set design and will sometimes ask for the impossible, in which case you have to tell them it just can't be done with the resources you have available.
The Set Construction Crew: Here's where to get some really practical information. Find out what flat widths are most commonly used in your theater - if all you have is three-foot-wide flats, for instance, it will be easier and cheaper if you design a 12-foot long wall than it would be if you use one that's 13 feet long. Ask them for the exact measurements of the stage - they usually have it, but if they don't, I'll tell you how to get that later on - and discuss with them any unusual items that they might have to build from scratch for you. You also need to know what kind of set plan they need to work off of - does it have to be exactly to scale, or can they fudge it from sketches? Do they need just a floor plan, or do they also want a frontal elevation (a view of what it would look like as seen by the audience)? Be aware that most crews can work from rough sketches, but it won't look like you thought it would if you don't give them measurements! If you're planning to use platforms and/or stairways, get their thoughts on what kind of heights and widths can be accommodated on your stage. Make good friends with your crew - you've just entered into a partnership with them.

NEXT: Step 3: Get Inspired
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