Create a Set Design


Intermediate High School

Overview and Planning

Have students in small groups of 4-6 choose an existing play or story to theoretically dramatize. Rather than present the play or story, students will create a set design for it.

Story ideas

  • Fairy stories
  • Myths/legends
  • Contemporary children’s fiction
  • Family or neighbourhood story

Remind students that the play’s set needs to communicate information to the audience that will help them understand or enjoy the story. Brainstorm what locations, structures, furniture, etc. are needed to tell this story. Decide what venue will be used, and what type of staging will be best suited: box set, arena, neutral, other (see the glossary for definitions of these stage types.)


  • Keep the storyline simple but dramatic.
  • Have a target audience in mind.
  • Keep the number of locations to a minimum.
  • Make sure that everyone in the discussion is familiar with the story, the characters, the period.
  • Sometimes it’s a good idea to create a neutral set which can transform into different locations through the use of chairs, benches, etc.


  1. Have students create a ground plan for the play they are working on, indicating doors, windows, flats, risers, etc.
  2. Have students create a sketch of the play they are working on from the audience point of view. Indicate furniture, acting areas, walls, doors and windows.
  3. Have students create a collage to evoke the set, using pictures, textured materials, sticks, colour swatches, etc. to indicate the mood, atmosphere, and colour palette.
  4. Have students create a collage to evoke the characters who will live on this set. Use colour, texture, photos, magazine pictures, sketches and the like to explore social status, colour, and mood. (This exercise will help with any discussion of costuming.)
  5. Have students create a paper/cardboard/shoebox maquette of the play in question, rendering in three-dimensions the walls, doors, windows, furniture, etc. Add colour. Have the students explore the possibilities of presenting the model animated by flashlight to give a sense of what’s required from a lighting point of view (focus and emphasis).
  6. Have students create a budget for the proposed set, indicating what is needed, what can be found (free) and what needs to be purchased (how much?).