An Actor’s Perspective- Set Design and Building

As a performer, I experience the magic of theatre in a multitude of ways, most of which is made possible because of the work that goes on behind the scenes.
One of my favorite moments of walking into a theatre for a show is seeing the space transformed by the set. People devote hours of their time to design, build and paint each piece to create the desired environment. It’s quite a process, too!

First, the director takes what’s written on the page and imagines the locations as described in the script. The director then adapts these images to be played practically on a stage, and relays their vision to the set designer. The set designer then designs the set, keeping in mind the limitations of the theatre space, respecting the director’s artistic vision and blocking choices, yet allowing their creative vision to also be present.
Some set designers make mini sets to show the director what they’ve created, others make drawings, similar to blueprints, to show the director how the pieces work. Once the director and set designer are satisfied with the design, it’s time to build, paint and decorate!

Building a set occurs in stages for practical reasons of getting it from the shop to the theatre. The pieces of the set will be cut, painted and decorated as much as is possible, and won’t get to the theatre until move-in day! Move-in day is usually the weekend before a show opens. It is on this day that all the pieces will be put together to make up the entire set.

I’m sure there is more to the process than I have described here, but this is how I understand the basics of a set being created from script to stage. I have a lot of respect for all the people involved in the making of sets, because their hard work lets me do what I love! For that, I am eternally grateful.

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