Skip to main content
Library homepage
 
Humanities LibreTexts

1.5: Scenery

  • Page ID
    55842
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    The Scenic Breakdown

    As was mentioned in Chapter 4, every designer and lead technician will create a breakdown. The scenic designers break down will include required scenery that is mentioned in the script, and any other special requirements.

    Initial Scenic Breakdown

    The scenic designer will use this to discover the requirements of the set, and of any particular set pieces. Some designers might do the breakdown by scene instead of by page. I recommend against that, as it is advantageous to know exactly where something occurs in the script. Knowing the exact page number (as opposed to just which scene), allows anyone involved to read the exact description in the text.

    Very often, especially in a play that was written in the last 50 years or so, the script will have a sketch in the back of the set. This set is usually the set from the first (or most recent) New York or London production. That design is the intellectual property of the designer of that production, and cannot be duplicated without their permission. It is included in the script because the stage direction found in the script were generally created, or at the very least edited, by the stage manager of that production. The sketch may make some of the stage directions clearer. Subsequent productions must attempt to figure out what was the original playwright’s intended scenic material, and what was the invention of the original production team. Generally, any scenic requirements mentioned in the text (dialogue) must be accounted for, while other items may be from the original designer.

    BOX AND COX

    Scene

    Page

    Character

    Box

    Cox

    Mrs. B

    i

    2

    X

    X

    Bed with curtains, Closet door, "Front" door, Fire place, table/ 2chairs

    i

    3

    X

    X

    Closet must hold at least 3 hats

    i

    4

    X

    X

    Bed must have a removable bolster, must be able to be quickly remade

    ii

    4

    X

    X

    ii

    5

    x

    x

    iii

    6

    X

    X

    Lights Fire, lights candle

    iii

    6

    X

    x

    Throws food out of Window (Need Window)

    iii

    7

    X

    X

    X

    iii

    8

    X

    X

    X

    On stage smoking

    iii

    9

    X

    x

    iii

    10

    X

    X

    iii

    11

    X

    X

    iii

    12

    X

    X

    iii

    13

    X

    X

    Need either on stage bells or bell pulls to be rung

    iv

    13

    X

    X

    X

    iv

    14

    X

    X

    Cupboard containing trick dice. 2 sets of trick dice which always throw 6

    iv

    15

    X

    X

    Trick coins which always land heads

    iv

    16

    X

    X

    X

    iv

    17

    X

    X

    iv

    18

    x

    X

    x

    iv

    19

    x

    x

    x

    "Front" door must have enough clearance to get a letter under it

    iv

    20

    x

    x

    x

    The Official Drawings

    The scenic designer will develop many drawings to detail what the set will look like. Most of these drawings will be in-scale drawings, which means that a certain measurement on the drawing equals a certain measurement in real life. Two common scales in theatre drawings are ½” scale and ¼” scale. ½” scale means that one half of an inch on the drawing is equivalent to one foot on the final constructed set. This is the same as the drawing be 1/24th of life size. Similarly, ¼” scale means that one quarter of an inch on the drawing is equal to one foot on the final set. This is the equivalent of saying that the drawing is 1/48th of life size.

    To make it easier to determine the size of something on a scale drawing, and not resort to math, you can use an architect’s scale rule. These are special rulers with approximately 11 different scales represented. The rulers have done the math for you so as you measure with them it tells you what the full size will be. To learn to use a scale ruler, watch this youtube video.

    Scenic designer drawings will include many things, including details on each and every set piece that must be built by the scenery or prop shops. Four drawings are of interest to the general technician. They are the Ground Plan, the Elevation, the Section Drawing, and the Rendering.

    Rendering

    The first type of drawing we are going to look at is one that is not done in scale. This type of drawing is called a rendering. It is a perspective drawing of what the set will look like. Sometimes designers create these by hand, or they are sometime computer generated. While this drawing is often very useful for determining what the set will look like, they cannot be relied upon for an accurate measurement. We are looking at this drawing first so that readers can get an understanding of what the set will look like which will help in understanding the scale drawings of the set.

    A Rendering of the stage
    Figure 1. Designers Rendering

    Above is an image of the designers rendering. If this was presented at full size, the paper would be Architectural C Size paper (18” x 24”). It has been reduced to fit in this text. In the lower right-hand corner of the page is a title block.

    Close Up of Title Block
    Figure 2. Title Block

    The title block holds important information. At the top of the block is the title of the show. The next segment details what this particular plate shows. Plates are the names given to individual pages of a scenic design package. In the smaller boxes, you find other important information, such as the designer, draftsperson, scale, page number for the entire set and the date. The date is very important, as frequently through the production process, the design will be updated. In the case of different plates having contradictory information, the plate with the later date should be considered correct.

    Ground Plan

    The ground plan is often the first drawing created, and often the one most often referred to by most of the production team. The ground plan shows what the stage looks like from above. This drawing is in scale but uses many symbols. It shows not only the on-stage spaces, but the off-stage spaces as well. This is important as the technical staff will often need to figure out where to place the backstage technical equipment and provide storage for additional stage crew needs.

    Ground plan of a stage
    Figure 3. Ground Plan

    On a plan, doors are shown as a symbol in an open position. Chairs and tables are regularly also shown as a symbol. Designers may show the height of various platforms with a number. The number is the height, in inches, from the stage floor. Off on the right side, you see the fly system, and an indication of what is hung on each pipe. Lastly, there are two circles on each side, down stage of the apron. Those are an indication of the sight-line seats, or the two seats that will have the best view of the backstage areas. These are indicated on the drawing so that the crew knows how far off stage they have to be to avoid being seen.

    Elevation

    An elevation drawing may, at first look, seem like it is the same as the rendering. It is not. An elevation is a front view, with no perspective that is in scale. This provides information about the height of various parts of the set. Elevations, Renderings, and sometimes sections often include a human figure. This gives a reference to judge sizes of set pieces quickly without getting out a scale ruler. Because elevations are shown from straight-on, a view relatively few audience members often have, it sometimes does not give all the information someone may want.

    Elevation illustration, front view of stage
    Figure 4. Elevation Drawing

    Section

    The center-line section drawing may be one of the more challenging drawings to understand. Imagine that someone has chopped the theatre in half along the center-line of the stage. (The center-line is an imaginary line that runs from upstage to downstage, perpendicular to the proscenium opening, and exactly bisecting the proscenium opening.) After they have chopped the theatre in half, they throw away one side, and then create an elevation as if they were standing on the thrown away side looking at what is left.

    To show items that are cut through, they are often drawn in heavy bold lines. In the below example they are shown in red (which is standard in the drafting program, VectorWorks). Section views can be of either stage left or stage right. The designer should select the side which is more unusual, otherwise, they might consider drawing both sections.

    Section Drawing
    Figure 5. Section Drawing

    Taping a Stage

    One of the first things that the technical staff or stage management team will do with a ground plan is to tape out the floor of the rehearsal room. A tape out is recreating the ground plan at full scale with spike tape on the rehearsal room floor. Most shows do not get to rehearse on the set until shortly before their first public performance. The taped-out floor gives performers and directors and other production staff a chance to make sure the show fits in an accurate representation of the space.

    To tape out the floor, you will need the ground plan, a scale ruler, two long tape measures (one large enough to measure from the down stage edge of the stage to the upstage edge of the set, and one large enough to measure from center line to the farthest stage left and farthest stage right set pieces), spike tape in several different colors and a carpenter’s square.

    Determine where the down stage edge of the set on center line will be in the rehearsal room. Mark this spot carefully with spike tape, and lay a tape measure with the “0” on this spot going directly upstage. All of your upstage/downstage measurements will be taken from this tape measure. For each point on your drawing determine how far upstage it is from your down center space, and how far to stage right or left. Take all measurements from the center line, and use the carpenter’s square to ensure that your left/right measurements are perpendicular to the center line. The reason for this is that if a mistake is made on one measurement, it is not compounded as it would be if you took a measurement from an existing point that is not on the center line.

    Additional Materials


    This page titled 1.5: Scenery is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Christopher R Boltz.

    • Was this article helpful?