Step 8: Add the Furniture
Furniture placement is part of the plan you handed over to the
director and construction crew, but you'll probably find that
there are some bare areas you hadn't planned on once the set is
built. Small occasional and end tables, fake ficus trees and plants,
and smallish furniture pieces like cabinets and bookshelves are
useful for filling in bare spots on a traditional set. If your
theater has a supply of small pieces like this that get used over
and over, and you're worried about putting a piece on your set
that's already been used a million times, give it a makeover with
paint (be sure to check with the producer or the Board first if
you have any doubts about whether you've got permission to do
that or not). Make sure, too, that you check with the director
before you add anything new to the set that will take up floor
space, particularly as you get closer to opening - the actors
need room to move, and the director may already be planning to
use that empty space for a bit of business if there hasn't been
something there all along.
We often borrow exceptionally good-looking furniture from a local
furniture store -- as long as we give them a credit in the program
and don't damage the goods (we limit ourselves to large sturdy
pieces that would be hard to hurt), they're happy to help us out.
Goodwill, The Salvation Army, and your and your friends' living
rooms are also good places to look for suitable furniture. Our
theater often uses a fantastic 1950's-style metal and formica
kitchen dinette set in beautiful condition that one of our set
designers picked up for 25 bucks at an antique store.
Whatever you end up using, make sure the style fits the time
period, and that upholstery colors compliment the colors you've
used on the walls and other textiles used on the set. You might
even want to give a couch or chair a temporary reupholstering
job -- it's not as difficult as you might think. Measure the furniture,
choose your fabric, and tack it on with staples and upholstery
tacks. You don't even need to worry about upholstering the back
side if it can't be seen by the audience.
One important rule of thumb - don't use anything that's fragile
or can't sustain a few knocks. If there will be hell to pay if
the item is damaged, don't put it on a set.
Be prepared to compromise, especially when the director tells
you things like the sofa's too large, the upstage table has to
have a drawer in it, or she's reblocked a scene, and now the desk
has to be stage right instead of stage left. As often as possible,
work it out so the director gets what she needs -- after all,
it's her show.
9: Dress It