How to Design for a Show

I’ve had the pleasure to work in projection, prop and set design over the past few years. You could say I’ve become somewhat of an expert at the design process. Today, I’d like to share with you my fool-proof method of how to successfully complete any design job. 

 

Let’s say you just got hired to do a projection design.

  1. Sit down with the director to get their vision for the show. This is best done with all the other designers present. 
  2. Read the script for fun. 
  3. Read the script, looking for themes throughout the text. 
  4. Read the script again as a designer. 
  5. Read the script one more time, just to make sure you haven’t missed anything. Keep in mind that you can go back and read the script at any time during this process (which you probably should do). 
  6. Doodle and research a lot, until you come up with as many awesome ideas as possible. 
  7. Ideally, you have gone through the script at least four months before the show goes up. Layout a timetable for yourself. Deadlines are super helpful. 
  8. Spend the first few weeks working super diligently on your designs. 
  9. Remember that you’re also a full-time student.
  10. Try and pass your Spanish class.
  11. Realize you have three months until the show opens, so you probably ought to start animating that really complicated piece now so that you don’t have to stress over it later. 
  12. Decide to blow off animating to go hang out with pals. You’ve got time. 
  13. Get assigned a group project in your Spanish class that you end up doing 90% of the work for because your partner is a slacker. 
  14. Spend an eight hour day animating a good chunk of your content. It is recommended to have a few cups (or gallons) of coffee to get you through the day. 
  15. Go to production meetings and realize that you’re both ahead and behind schedule. 
  16. Ponder how this is possible. 
  17. Flunk a Spanish test.
  18. Go to tutoring more consistently. 
  19. Realize the show opens in a month and you have a ton of work left to be done. 
  20. P A N I C
  21. Use the adrenaline that comes from procrastination to make some awesome content. 
  22. Program your designs. 
  23. Realize that there are about 9 ½ glitches in your designs. 
  24. Rerender those trouble spots. 
  25. Possibly cut some pieces of your design during tech week. 
  26. Possibly add some pieces to your design during tech week. 
  27. Cross your fingers and pray really hard during opening night that your design reads well on stage. 
  28. Collapse into your bed, resolving to do a better job planning and managing your time during the next job. 
  29. Accept the next job. 
  30. Repeat. 

 

Remember when I said I was an expert at the design process? Yeah, that was a big fat lie. To be quite honest, I don’t think anyone ever becomes a complete expert at this ridiculous process, especially when you’re still in school. Each show is its own beast, and the challenges you ran into during the last show most likely won’t be the ones you’ll deal with on the next job. You must be willing to constantly learn as you work; it’s part of the gig. The thing that’s really great about the theatre community is that there are a lot of really talented people to work alongside and learn from. No design process will be 100% smooth, but there’s a certain beauty in the rough spots. It’s from the rough spots that we become better artists and problem solvers, and because of this, we make better art. 

 

Until Next Time, 

Abby

 

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