My design approach is inspired by Robert Edmond Jones’s statement in his foundational book The Dramatic Imagination: Reflections and Speculations on the Art of the Theatre: “all art in the theatre should be, not descriptive but evocative.” In theatre design my goal is to have a collaborative process where there is a synthesis of ideas. I also feel that it is important that the designer continue to be a student of design, learning from each design experience, applying that knowledge to the next design. These concepts, theatre as an evocative art form, collaboration, and the inquisitive spirit form the tenets of my design philosophy.
Throughout the design process I work closely with the director and other members of the production team to discover the world that we want to show the audience. Any project that I work on begins with a careful investigation and analysis of the script which leads to a conversation with the rest of the production team. This discussion usually begins with the question “why this script, at this time, in this place?” The answer to that question often leads to focused research. Research into time period and location are necessary but another crucial component of any design is evocative research. This abstract research may be in the form of music, painting, or other art, which helps to further clarify the emotional texture of the world of the play. Theatre can and should be entertaining but its power lies in its ability to inform and enlighten, to touch the audience on a basic level.
Developing the vision for a production takes time and effective communication among members of the production team. All of the elements of a production need to work cohesively to communicate the production team’s vision effectively to the audience. I consider myself a scenographer, a designer that works in multiple areas of theatre design. Specifically, I have experience with scenic, lighting, sound, projection, and some costume design. Because I understand the tools and goals of other areas I can better communicate with other designers on the team and the director.
Through further discussion with the production team I begin to develop materials to communicate my design ideas. I use the traditional techniques of pencil sketching, model building, painted renderings, and paint elevations. I have also experimented with different techniques and technologies in order to develop more tools to better communicate my design ideas. Through inquisitive reevaluation of my design process I have continued to grow and evolve as a designer. I have used computer-generated models and renderings on numerous designs. They have proven to be particularly useful in long-distance collaboration. I have also incorporated computer-aided cutting and 3D printing technology into my traditional model building. Modern computer-controlled, paper-cutting machines can cut out delicate and intricate shapes that would be difficult to produce by hand. Using this technology has allowed me to create more accurate models that better represent what the finished scenery will look like. Much like computer-controlled paper-cutting, 3D printing has allowed me to create intricate models. The ability to quickly print complex three-dimensional model pieces has made it possible to quickly provide multiple options for scenic elements. This is very useful in conversations with the director and other designers. The ability to quickly and effectively communicate my design ideas increases the opportunities for feedback and dialogue with the rest of the production team. Each production poses different challenges; a thorough collaborative approach to design helps me better meet those challenges.