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.
3: Get Inspired