Set design drama essay

The aesthetics artistic qualities of a theater are often as important as the production taking place therein.

Technical Design Solutions for Theatre

There is something transformative about a proscenium arch built in the s, or even the stark emptiness of the Black Box theater, that can change the entire mindset of an audience before a single note of an overture is played, before a single line of dialogue is spoken.

Other aspects of theatre design that impact the audience are stage lighting, costume design, and the type of stage on which a production is performed. The design and architecture of a theater can bring an audience to another period of time when men wore tuxedos and women wore gowns to the theater. A Proscenium theater has this sort of quality, with its dramatic, ornate arches framing the stage and each successive one extending out over the audience. There is an expectation by the audience of quality of performance in spaces such as this because space demands the performance meets the quality of its construction.

On the other hand, a Black Box theater, a usually small, rectangular space meant for more experimental theater, is meant to immerse an audience in another way.

The Impact of Theatre Design

The productions usually performed in a Black Box theater usually focus entirely on the writing and the acting, with little emphasis on stage design and lighting concepts. Especially considering the existence of outdoor theaters and black box theaters, it is obvious that a production, even one of high quality, can be done without the need for stage lighting.

So why do we use it? Why does a director, usually having been given very limited funds, pay someone to design lighting for their plays? Obviously, it is more than mere visibility, for if that were the case a director might employ a common watt bulb to illuminate her play. Lighting can accomplish many things within a production, and one of these accomplishments can be a setting of the proper mood. Not only can a lighting technician dim the lights at parts of the production which are supposed to be dark in mood and brighten them during lighter scenes, but he can even make the audience associate a certain mood with a certain color of light, accomplishing a kind of mass classical conditioning.

Minglu Wang explains how to design a theatre stage set

If, for instance, the antagonist is always in scenes tinted blue, the audience will at some point associate blue with evil or suspense, adding an element to the production that may have not otherwise been there. Also, theatre lighting can set time and place for an audience.


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The use of lighting extends beyond mere night and day, but can be used to accurately represent more subtle differences in lighting, such as firelight, lamplight, or even the light reflected from sources of water. Which will help create the right mood for that particular scene? This means the actor must be comfortable enough to perform his or her responsibilities on stage and while that occurs the costume must enhance characterization and reinforce setting. Characterization and setting are two of the biggest aspects of a play, and costumes can improve the degree to which these aspects are relayed to the audience.

While audience members will often know the storyline of a play before they walk in the door, costume design can either remind them of the time period or sometimes make it abundantly clear that the director has decided to change the time period or setting altogether.

For instance, if the curtain is raised on a performance of Macbeth and The Three Witches are stirring the contents within their cauldron while standing in bathing suits, the audience becomes immediately aware there is something experimental about this production. You can view samples of our professional work here. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays. What set Appia aside from other stage designers was his rejection of painted two dimensional sets.

Instead of using the conventional way of lighting from the floor, Appia lit the stage from above and the sides of the stage, thus creating depth and a three dimensional set.


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Light intensity and colour helped Appia to gain a new perspective of scene design and stage lighting. This helped to set the mood and create an authentic stage set.

DRAMA 101, INTRODUCTION TO THEATRE, MODULE 3 - Scenic Designer

He believed that there should be an artistic harmony especially between these two people in order for his theory to be successful. Light, space and the actor are all malleable commodities which should all be intertwined to create a successful mise-en-scene.

Minglu Wang explains how to design a theatre stage set | British Council

He used steps, platforms and columns to create depth and manipulated light in order to make the set look real. Light was considered to be the primary element which linked together all the other aspects of the production and Appia was one of the first designers to realise its potential, more than to merely illuminate actors and the painted backdrop behind.


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This was shown in his staging of Tristan und Isolde Notice the steps, columns and ramps. Perhaps the main reason being the huge advance in technology, which was only just emerging in the late 19th century. Unlike Appia however he believed actors had no more importance than marionettes. Gentlemen, the Marionette is a writing in which Craig explains how the actors are merely puppets on strings.

He built elaborate and symbolic sets, for example his set for the Moscow Art Theatre production of Hamlet consisted of movable screens. And like Appia, he broke the stage floor with platforms, steps and ramps.

Theatre Laid Bare

He replaced the parallel rows of canvas with an elaborate series of tall screens. Also inspired by his partner Isadora Duncan, a dancer which inspired him to look into the concept of the rhythms and movements in nature acting as a vehicle for an emotional and aesthetic experience. Craig was very interested in electrical light, something new and only just emerging in his time. An example of this can be seen when he worked on Dido and Aeneas. He imagined a theatre which was a fusion of poetry, performer, colour and movement designed to appeal to the emotions.

The role of the designer

As he progressed through his work, he followed his symbolist views using movement to create mood and in his studies in talked of removing elements of sets or props and replacing them with symbolic gestures. For example a man battling through a snowstorm, Craig questioned whether the snow was necessary. In after Craig had developed himself as a set designer he worked on a production of Dido and Aeneas which was ground breaking as a set for theatre design.