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PHYSICAL PRODUCTION: SET DESIGN MEETINGS


As a producer, you have carefully created your budget. As a director, you know your show back to front, you have begun rehearsals and you can see how your show is beginning to take shape. Next, you must begin to consider building the world in which to tell your story. Creating the set is often one of the more expensive items on your budget. Reusing set pieces from previous school or community productions, borrowing from other groups within your region, and designing sets that can be easily adapted in the future can become more of an investment, rather than a one-time expenditure on disposable materials. The fact that you can't recreate the flashy, big-budget Broadway experience with automated scenery only gives you greater opportunity to be creative with your set, your cast and your crew (don't worry! You don't need a huge crew either).

When it comes to set design, always keep in mind that your prerogative is to simply tell the story. A story can be equally, if not more, engaging with an empty stage, creative use of chairs, or just changes in the lighting to evoke a different scene. Keeping your budget in mind, take care to represent rather than reproduce items and scenes in the script. Not only is it more interesting, it shifts the focus to your casts' acting and singing. We would recommend looking at the direction work of John Doyle (Sweeney Todd (Revival, 2005), The Color Purple(Revival, 2015) for a working example of how minimalism in your physical production serves to enhance storytelling, while keeping your budget manageable (even on Broadway!).

Enlist budding designers, engineers and artists from your student body, community or college, working alongside teachers and professionals, to create your set. Produce a packet - information about the show and individual scenes to guide their process. Our 101 editions provide scene-by-scene guides for their respective productions. Provide, if you can, a diagram of stage and auditorium dimensions (all theaters should have them). Make sure you hold regular meetings for them to bring their sketches and diagrams for discussion, and credit the whole team’s work in your show program!

Check out this guide to scene painting for amateur musical theatre.