Behind the Stage Door

The Price, by Arthur Miller, directed by Timothy Bond at Syracuse Stage 1/27/-2/14/10Lighting Design: Thomas C. HaseSet Design: Scott BradleyCostume Design: Laurie Churba Kohn(C) T Charles Ericksontcepix@comcast.net
The Price by Arthur Miller, directed by Timothy Bond 
Lighting Design: Thomas C. Hase, Set Design: Scott Bradley
(C) T Charles Erickson

Do you ever step into a theatre, see a set, and wonder how somebody could think up something so marvelous?

One of the most unique educational programs we offer for emerging young artists in the Rochester community is the Stage Door Design Project, a program that gives area high school students the rare opportunity to explore the core design opportunities of theatrical production – scenic, costume, lighting, and sound design – under the guidance of Geva’s own professional artists and designers.

In 2007 Geva collaborated with Brighton High School for a shadowing project of the play Our Town. The Brighton High
School cast of the show and their director (who served as the assistant director for the Geva production) met with their professional counterparts in the Geva cast of Our Town to share their thoughts and examine the creative process while both productions rehearsed. At the conclusion of the project, the high school cast performed their production on the Geva mainstage set. This joint venture helped pave the way for the first Stage Door Project, Almost, Maine, in 2010.

Director of Education, Skip Greer, with Stage Door students
Director of Education, Skip Greer, with Stage Door students

For Almost, Maine we threw open the stage door and welcomed nine area high schools into every step of our production process. Each of the nine participating teachers was assigned one of the nine scenes in the play to produce – including assembling a cast, selecting a student designer, and leading a marketing team of students from that school. Together we explored the ideas of the play and the process of designing. The project had an acting component to it as well and the Almost, Maine project culminated with a public performance featuring the students from the nine area schools performing their own collaborative production of Almost, Maine on the Geva mainstage with the scenic design and technical elements from the Geva production. These two exceptional ventures were the foundation for what has shaped and evolved into the Stage Door Design Project of today.

A Stage Door student shares an inspiration board for his scenic design
A Stage Door student shares an inspiration board for his scenic design

The 2011 Stage Door Design Project centered on the Geva production of Over the Tavern. 14 high school students were selected as scenic, lighting, sound, and costume designers, each responsible for the exploration and creation of some design element of the Over the Tavern script. Meanwhile, students were mentored by four of Geva’s own artists and professional designers and were invited into the actual design, build, and technical rehearsal process of the Geva production. In 2012 we offered a similar experience with A Raisin in the Sun – student designers crafting their own unique designs for a Geva script while learning about the design process from the show’s professional designers and artists as it unfolded.


A student's scenic designs for Almost, Maine
A Stage Door student’s scenic designs for Almost, Maine

This year we’re going to be doing things just a bit differently. For the 2013 Stage Door Design Project we will be selecting 16 high school students who will meet as a collective to discuss storytelling through design, observation, interpretation, choice, and the function of design with our professional designers. They’ll discuss concept and text with a director, and examine how research affects design with a dramaturg. They’ll meet with some of Geva’s own guest directors and designers who are here in Rochester to produce shows in our mainstage and NextStage, and they’ll sit in on technical rehearsals for these productions. In clusters with the other student designers in their field, they’ll will visit the Geva shops to explore the build process and experience the realization of current designs. Participants will discover in-depth what a designer in their field actually does. Finally, they’ll come together in four design teams – each team featuring a designer from each field – to put their skills into action. Each team will develop a concept and draft a cohesive set of designs for a script that is under consideration for Geva’s 2013-2014 season!

A student's costume design for Almost, Maine
A student designer’s costume rendering for Almost, Maine

The Stage Door Design Project has always been a unique and exhilarating experience for young designers because it is discovery rooted in reality – students are working from a real script while gaining practical knowledge and creative experience from directors and designers in the professional theatre.  But this year we’re particularly excited for our student designers to sign on for several reasons. Our Stage Door Design Project students will have the first swing at a possible future production. They are taking the first look at what the production might look or sound like and what it can convey through design. And without someone else’s design for the script in front of them to influence or persuade them, students will be able to really let their imaginations run wild! We can’t wait to see what they come up with! Additionally, if the show is produced next season, the students’ designs may be featured as a display in our lobby for all of our patrons, designers, actors, donors, sponsors, family, and friends to see.

A student designer's costume design board for Almost, Maine
A student designer’s costume design board for Almost, Maine


Sound interesting?

We think so too!

The 2013 Stage Door Design Project runs February-May and applications are being accepted until January 24, 2013. Read more about the Stage Door Design Project and apply here.


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