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Vicki Veenstra

Propmaker: Vicki Veenstra

Set & Prop Designs

All the scenery, furniture and props the audience sees at a production of a play make up the set design. The set designer's job is to design these physical surroundings in which the action will take place. The overall look of the set also gives the audience information about the director's concept of the production.

The set should:

  • suggest the style and tone of the whole production
  • create mood and atmosphere
  • give clues as to the specific time and place of the action
  • offer creative possibilities for the movement and grouping of the actors
props

The set may also need to be designed so the backstage areas used by the actors and stage crew are kept out of sight from the audience. This will depend on the effect the director wants to create with the staging and on the type of stage the production uses.

All the things appearing on the stage other than the scenery are called stage properties, or props. Set props like furniture, draperies and decorations are the types of things that complete the set and they need to be part of the set design.

The set designer will normally read the script many times, both to get a feel for the flavour and spirit of the script and to list its specific requirements for scenery, furnishings and props. The time of day, location, season, historical period and any set changes called for in the script are noted. The set designer's focus here is on figuring out everything that may be needed based on the dialogue in the script. Stage directions tend to be ignored at this point in the process.

Collaboration

The set designer will meet with the director and the other members of the design team to discuss the details of the set and the director's interpretation of the play. The set, costume and lighting designers also meet and work together to ensure the creation of a unified look and feel for the production. A lively exchange of initial ideas and first impressions helps clarify the steps that each person needs to take in this intensely collaborative process.

Designer's tools

Set designers use several tools to communicate their ideas to the director and the other designers. These include:

  • a rough sketch of the set in the preliminary phase
  • floor plans drawn to scale showing from above the general layout of each set and the placement of the furniture and large props
  • front elevations giving a view of the elements of the set from the front and showing details like windows or platforms
  • maquettes or miniature three-dimensional models showing how each set will look when finished.

These visual aids help to ensure that all the theatre artists involved in the production understand each other.

Maquette created by Christina Poddubiuk as set designer for the National Arts Centre English Theatre's Main Stage Series presentation of Stephen Massicotte's Mary's Wedding. [click here or image for larger version]

Click on Image for larger version

Check out images of Christina Poddubiuk's set design being built in the National Arts Centre carpentry shop. [click here or images for larger version]

This is what the completed set for Mary's Wedding looked like under lights in the NAC Theatre. [click here or images for larger version]


Visit the ArtsAlive.ca English Theatre Design & Production Interviews page to watch read and video and text interviews with set and costume designers:

Copyrights of all images of maquettes and set designs shown belong to the designer, Christina Poddubiuk. No reproduction may be made using any image contained herein without the written permission of Christina Poddubiuk. These images may not be altered or used in part or in whole for any other product. Violators will be prosecuted.