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the role of the scenic designer

If you chose to serve on the  SET DESIGN TEAM for this semester's Advanced Acting show, you are responsible for participating in design team meetings as well as growing as a designer during the rehearsal and performance process.


If serving on the Set Design Team, you are ALSO responsible for independently learning about the role of a scenic designer as outlined below. 


Please be sure you collect/document your learning and your design journey in your  Process Journal.


(WEEKS 6-7)



Task: (Formative Grade):  Create your own "Needs of the Script" (Set) spreadsheet (by carefully reading the script).  Consider all the information shared above as you (re-)read the script, and be sure to include both stated and implied set needs.  Once your Set List is complete (from the needs stated in the script), turn it in to KP for a grade (Google Classroom).

Task (Formative Grade): As a team, you will spike out the set in the rehearsal space, and learn how to "work in scale"  to create a scaled drawing of our set, known as a groundplan.  (Because this course is on a very condensed timeline, the preliminary set configuration - such as where walls and large items "play" on stage - has already been decided by Ms. Price so that blocking rehearsals can begin right away.)


Video:  How to Make a Scale Drawing & How to Use a Scale Ruler

(watch both videos as a GROUP & practice with scale rulers before beginning your groundplan project - listed above)

Task (Formative Grade):  Research information needed to make informed scenic decisions for our show.  (Historical time period, architecture, furniture, style, etc.)  Collect research in your Process Journal.

  • Note: What you research is dependent on what's in the script.

Task:  As a team, create a Deadline Calendar for the set and set pieces, including all items you will need to find, create, or build.  Assign set gathering/ordering/making/building tasks among your team.  Consider each other's strengths when assigning tasks, and be sure to update your Set List spreadsheet as you complete each task.

PART II:  LEARNing/applying

(weeks 8-16)

  • You must complete at least ONE reading/videos, (or video series) per week and respond in your PROCESS JOURNAL.

  • You don't need to complete in order. You can pick/choose what is most interesting and/or useful to you each week.

  • You MUST watch/read each learning activity with a star (*).  You can decide which week(s) you watch/do the starred items.

Please watch these first 2 videos (in order) during the FIRST WEEK of Rehearsal/Design Work:

(omit if you've taken Stagecraft)

*Video by KP:  Process of (Scenic) Design  (5:00)

Journal Title:  Process of Design

  1. After watching the entire video, describe the way in which a set designer should READ a script, and what should (s)he be looking for?  (Be specific.)

  2. Which designs were you most drawn to and were they literal or figurative?

  3. What's the difference between "research"  and "inspiration" in the design process?

*Video by KP:  Scenic Design RESEARCH  (5:00)

Journal Title:  Design Research

  1. How do script/scenic NEEDS impact RESEARCH?

  2. Of the areas shared in the video, what would be helpful to research for OUR show?

  3. What's the difference between "research"  and "inspiration" in the design process?

Please watch these 2 videos (in order) during the SECOND or THIRD  WEEK (your choice) of Rehearsal/Design Work:

(omit if you've taken Stagecraft)

*Video by KP:  Scenic Design - Ideas, Inspiration, Transition  (5:00)

Journal Title:  Design Inspiration

  1. After watching entire video, list then research some of your OWN ideas about our set design and collect your findings in your Process Journal.

*Video by KP:  Creating a Cohesive Design - Aesthetic & Space (5:00) 

Journal Title:  Design Aesthetic

  1. Based on what you've learned from the SCRIPT, what do you feel should be OUR show's design aesthetic and what elements can help support that aesthetic on stage?

  2. Think & Respond:  Are there areas of the stage that aren't being used that could support the overall design?

*Video: Designing Theatre: Comedy of Errors (4:57)

Journal Title:  Scenic Design (Comedy of Errors)

1.  What is the MAIN role of a set designer?  (it's stated right before the title is shown on the video)

2.  What does the designer in this video DO when she reads a script? (be specific)

3.  What does the designer look at and collect to develop her ideas? 

4. How is theatre design different than film design?

     (Notice how the "feel" of the show leads to the LOOK of the show.  This is ALWAYS true in design.)

*Video:  Design on Stage (Bunny Christie)

Journal Entry:  Reflections on Design (Ink)

  1. What did YOU find visually interesting in Bunny Christie's design?  Why?

  2. In what ways did the designer's SCRIPT INTERPRETATION and/or RESEARCH assist in the creation of her final design?  (List at least 3 specific ways.)

Video: David Rockwell's Set Design - On the Twentieth Century (2:33)

Journal Title Scenic Design (David Rockwell)

1.  What is the role of set design? (stated right away in video)

2. Any theatre project starts out with lots of what?  

4. What is the role of collaboration in theatre?   Risk?

Video:  American Theatre Wing - Scenic Design (7:21)

Journal Title Scenic Design (Riccardo Hernandez)

1. What does this scenic designer LIKE and NOT like?  

2. What does the scenic designer GRAVITATE toward?  

3. For a scenic designer, what is the first meeting with the director about?

   (Notice: how the MEANING and "heart" of the text leads to the LOOK of the shows.)

Video:Building Broadway: Hamilton Set Designer David Korins (3:10)

Journal Title Scenic Design (David Korins - Hamilton)

1.  What were David Korin's first thoughts about designing Hamilton?

2.  What IMAGES inspired Korin's designs?

3.  What specific design elements on stage spoke to the greater MEANING of the show?  

Video:  David Korins, Set Designer of Dear Evan Hansen (3:43)

Journal TitleScenic Design (David Korins - Evan Hansen)

1.  WHERE did Korin's design ideas (for Evan Hansen) come from?  

2.  Who ultimately determined WHICH of Korin's ideas would "come to life" in Hansen?  In Hamilton? 

    (Advice:  Never be afraid to explore "I'm not sure why, but I really FEEL like...") 

Video: Set, Scenic Art & Props - Sweeney Todd

Journal TitleRisk-Taking in Design

1.  What did the leader of the set construction DO with the designer's drawings?  

2.  What research images did the designer use as inspiration?

3. What materials were used to create decaying walls for the set?

4. What is the role of risk-taking and "play" in designing a set?

Video: BUILDING a set design MODEL box

Journal TitleBuilding a model box

1.  What did you learn about models and model-building from this video?

Video "Series":  Scenic Art 

Journal TitleScenic Art

  1. Describe what you found useful (to our show) from watching these Scenic Art videos.  Be specific.

Video "Series": Painting Techniques

Journal TitlePainting Techniques

  1. Describe what you found useful (to our show) from watching these  videos.  Be specific.

  2. Try one of the techniques from the videos and upload a pic or video of your work to your Process Journal.

Video "Series": Brick & Stone Techniques

Journal Title:  Brick & Stone Techniques

  1. Describe what you found useful (to our show) from watching these  videos.  Be specific.

  2. Try one of the techniques from the videos and upload a pic or video of your work to your Process Journal.

Video "Series": Stencil Work

Journal Title:  Stencil Work

  1. Describe what you found useful (to our show) from watching these  videos.  Be specific.

  2. Try one of the techniques from the videos and upload a pic or video of your work to your Process Journal.

Video "Series": Metal Look

Journal Title:  Metal Look

  1. Describe what you found useful (to our show) from watching these  videos.  Be specific.

  2. Try one of the techniques from the videos and upload a pic or video of your work to your Process Journal.  

Video "Series": Scene Shop Skills

Journal Title:  Scene Shop Skills

  1. Describe what you found useful (to our show) from watching these  videos.  Be specific.


(weeks 8-16)


While learning about aspects of design each week (see videos above), you will be creating a Design Board to visually display your research/inspiration.  This will become the springboard for the completion of your own designs/set.  

Task (Summative Grade - IB: Thinking Creatively):AFTER your team has discussed and created your FINAL set needs list, begin looking for INSPIRATION for the look and feel you'd like to achieve with your Set Design by creating a (GROUP) SET DESIGN BOARD (Note:  You MUST meet with the Director and Props team prior to this step.) 

  • The goal of this task is to research and find information and inspiring images that will assist you in acquiring, designing, or creating a realistic and visually interesting set (and set pieces) for our production. 

  • Each member of the props team is responsible for researching and/or looking for inspiration for at least 3 set items/elements (there can be overlap between team members, or you can divide and conquer)

  • Be sure your research is from credible sources, and also allow yourself to be inspired by the world around you. 

  • Creativity thrives in community, so be sure to collaborate with others and your team along the way.

  • As you research, be sure to "collect" your research/inspiration in a location that you can easily access when it's time to create your team's Design Board.

  • After research, discussions, and narrowing of ideas is complete, CREATE A (GROUP) SET DESIGN BOARD

  • Note:  You will be graded on your individual contributions to your group's Design Board



In order to design anything, a new designer must become comfortable with failure, and leave plenty of time for it during the process.  All creative work involves multiple attempts before arriving at the best outcome.  In the creative ideas/planning phase, if you consider your first idea the best idea, you're probably not involved in creative work, and should re-consider what you've created.  Failure is natural, accepted, and expected in this course...and it should be part of your set design process.  However, since theatre is ALWAYS on a timeline, it's important to spend a LOT of time "failing" very early on (in the ideas & prototype phase), because it will help prevent bigger failures later on, when time is not on your side.


Designing and creating anything that's original requires planning.  How this planning "looks" is up to you, but you need to make sure that you make your designing/planning VISIBLE.  You will do this planning in your Process Journal, and it may include sketches of your designs, photos of prototypes or models, or physical attempts at your design.  This documentation process could also include a catalog of tutorial videos on how you learned to make your set piece (or how to make various aspects of your set), interviews with experts, or documentation on mentoring you received in tool use or skill development in order to create your set.  

Task (Formative Grade):  YOUR Process of Design

  • Track your process of design in your Process Journal, including any relevant research, images, sketches, pictures of prototypes, pictures of models, or further learning you did to create your set piece (see above).  You must make your design process visible for this grade.  (See paragraph above.)

Task (SUMMATIVE Grade):  YOUR Completed Set for the show 

PART III: dress/tech rehearsals

(WEEKS 15-18)

Tech/Dress Deadline (Formative Grade):   Prior to Dress/Tech rehearsals, all physical aspects of the set and backstage space should be complete.  Artistic aspects, such as detail painting or set dressing may still be on-going, but the physical structure and non-artistic painting must be completed prior to the first Tech rehearsal.

Video:  Behind the Scenes at Disney's Aladdin

Journal Title:  Calltime​ / Pre-Show Checklist

1. In professional theatre, as shown in this video, what are the (specific) tasks performed by YOUR (assigned) role prior to a show?  

2.  What are some of the things that YOU could put on YOUR Pre-Show checklist to be sure our show runs smoothly?  (Think of ALL the things necessary from the time you enter the black box until the show starts, including things like "Where do I put my personal belongings?" or "Where should this prop be pre-set?" or "What's the best place for this quick change to happen?" Etc.  Don't forget to include "sign in" on your checklist.)

Task (Formative Grade):  You will create YOUR Pre-Show Checklist with ALL tasks to consider prior to the show.  This MUST be well-thought out and completed/hung up PRIOR to the FIRST dress/tech rehearsal.  Type and print your checklist (with your name in large font at the top) and hang in a designated area backstage.  (Keep in mind that you will most likely need to add to this list from things you learn or are reminded of in dress/tech rehearsals.

EXPLORE MORE (optional):


(This list will be added to over time.  Let KP know if you find any helpful information that could be useful to future Advanced Acting students.)

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