Designing the Look of a Production: Scenographers

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Designing for a theater production can be a daunting task. There are lights to consider, costumes to create, scenes to decorate, sounds to play with. However, someone's got to do it. Otherwise, the audience would experience a quiet and dim performance, where undressed characters mill about on an undressed stage. And unless this is what the director intended, these visual elements must be addressed. Enter stage right: the scenographer.

"The scenographer has to be an artist who can understand how to work with and incorporate the ideas of the director, understand text as a writer, be sensitive to the needs of a performer exposed to an audience, and create imaginative and appropriate spaces for productions," writes British scenographer Pamela Howard.

A scenographer can either work alone or with a team of specialists, depending upon the production's location. In countries outside of the United States, the scenographer works alone. He or she is solely responsible for the visual elements of the production. A daunting task, it would seem; however, an overseas scenographer works on a fixed yearly salary and has a long pre-production period, allowing him time to "research, design, and supervise the implementation of all the elements that make up a production."

However, with much less time allowed during pre-production and stricter budgets (because a "fast return is needed"), U.S. scenographers collaborate with a team, dividing the work up among specialists. The team of scenographers, therefore, includes scenic designers, lighting designers, sound designers, costume designers, and many others.

Scenic Designers

Scenic designers create the "environment" of a production and collaborate with the production manager, the scenic artist, and propmaster to ensure that the visual details are being carried out.

Lighting Designers

A lighting designer organizes all the lights in a production. She works with the director, set designer, costume designer, and sometimes the choreographer. She sticks to the script and notices when there's a change in time, and also makes sure there aren't too many blackouts in a scene. Sometimes it's hard for a lighting designer to convey her ideas. In this case, she can use storyboards, photographs, or "mockups of actual lighting effects" to express exactly what her work will look like on stage.

Sound Designers

Usually there is only one sound designer on a theater production. His role includes tuning the system in the theater and placing the speakers and actors' microphones in the arena. The sound designer also makes sure that the sound can be heard by every member of the audience, whether he or she is sitting in a large or small venue.

Costume Designers

A costume designer is responsible for creating and/or finding the entire wardrobe for the production. She can either design the collection herself or collect pieces for the characters from other outlets. From hats, glasses, gloves, and pocket squares to dresses, slacks, shirts, and jackets, the costume designer selects the appropriate costumes for the characters, taking into consideration the setting, year, and style of the production, as well as the director's vision. The costume designer may also coordinate with the wigs and makeup departments to create complete looks.

Whether working alone or collaborating with a team, scenographers assure audience members that no ear or eye will be strained but that every artistic element will excite their souls.
On the net:Theater Design Associates

Pamela Howard

Scenography If this article has helped you in some way, will you say thanks by sharing it through a share, like, a link, or an email to someone you think would appreciate the reference.

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