Jamie Squillare
Tips and Tricks for School Stage Set Design
POSTED BY Jamie Squillare ON September 1, 2014, NO COMMENTS

Many people think that building a set for a school play is a simple and straight-forward process. Just paint several canvases, bang a few pieces of wood and you’re ready! In reality most stage set designs are far too complex to even be built not to mentioned work for a given production. Before you decide to help your school build that set, learn what steps are needed to successfully tackle the project.

I’m Jamie Squillare and my passion is set design. Here I would like to share my knowledge with all of you.

Study the Play

School stage set designMake sure that you get acquainted with the play. Where is the setting of the story? How many scenes are included in the play and how long is each? Will you need to create an interactive scenery or you can stick to static background and settings? These questions will help you determine the complexity of the set you need to build. Remember that complex scene shifts typically come with movements of scenery. If possible leave scene shifts for play moments which benefit from dramatic scene changes.

Talk to the Director

Oftentimes, actors and directors start off rehearsing without a clear concept of what the play’s set is going to look like. Although at first this may not be an issue, it can potentially ruin the school play in the latter stages of the production especially if the director has a different concept of how actors will interact with the set. Talk to the director before rehearsals to ensure that you’re on the same track regarding set design, size and interactivity. Don’t make assumptions. Agree on a budget and set a meeting so that you can introduce the director to your ideas. This way, you can deal with any stage set design modifications in a timely manner as opposed to doing them in the last possible moment.

Points of View

To build a usable, artistic and effective set, you need to consider several things. First it’s the point of view – you want to ensure that the set design won’t block the audience’s view regardless of angle or levels. You also need to make a usable set – one that will enable the actors to play without worrying that their movements will be blocked or limited. Decide what kinds of set areas will match the movements of the characters and the action. Determine what style, design elements, special effects and color schemes will be most suitable for your set.

Assemble Set Materials

The earlier you start assembling materials the more time you’ll have to change or update your design. Use 5 by 3.9 inches lumber and 0.78 inches plywood jointed with carriage bolts for the platform. For any battle sets you can use foam structure products or batten and canvas flats. Feel free to use canvas and felt to minimise platform noise. Beyond these recommendations, you can use any inventory and furniture to customize your set. Make sure to check garage sales, where you can get your hands on inexpensive and effective hardware, drapery, props and set dressing. Also, consider using out-of style furniture, which can be re-painted and altered to meet your design needs.

Begin Building

First and foremost, you need to tape out a floor plan so that the actors can use it immediately during early rehearsals. Next, erect platforms, flats and other decor elements as they’re finished. Add furniture, props and dressing. Prepare a detailed schedule with deadlines for every part of the set, so you don’t forget anything.These useful tips and tricks will help you build the right stage set design. Keep in mind that you may be working with inexperienced volunteers, who may have limited knowledge of how to deal with absolute deadlines. Find the most devoted participants and give them more responsibility to make sure that each aspect of the project will be taken care on time.


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