One week into rehearsals for our production of The 39 Steps, this is the second installment in a three-post series directly from the fingers of our 2013 Stage Door Design Project students, who worked in production teams to create three unique and cohesive sets of scenic, lighting, sound, and costume designs for the The 39 Steps last spring, under the guidance of Geva’s own professional staff and designers.
Team B designed for scenes 24, 25, and 26 – inside the police car on the moor, outside on the dark moors at night, and inside the McGarrigle Hotel. Below, the students of Team B describe their artistic and technical approaches to these scenes:
“For Geva’s 2013 Stage Door program, we were tasked with designing a production for Patrick Barlow’s The 39 Steps. The show follows Richard Hannay, an everyman thrust into a plot where he never has all the answers and plays the standard espionage story for laughs. The three members of our group were assigned to design a set, lighting scheme, and costumes that needed to work together to create a cohesive production using several specific scenes from the show.”
Scenic: “Scenic design is very important in the design process. The set is the first thing the audience sees, beginning their immersion into the show. When designing a set, it is very important to think about every detail a show presents to you:
- Your setting: Are you inside or outside? You might traverse both interiors and exteriors throughout the show, and how do you address that? You may change location completely, sometimes several times, or you may remain in the same room for the entire show. One must consider all of these when designing the general set of a show.
- Materials: Once you’ve decided on the basic construction of the set, you need to look at it and apply materials to it. If there’s wood, what kind of wood is it? What kind of tree bark or wallpaper or dirt does this show – and by extension – this set, have? Every tiny detail must be tailored for the show, and every tiny detail must have a reason attached to it.
- Colors and textures: Going along with the above, the colors and textures are vital to setting the scene for the show. What colors bring about the right moods and tone for the show? Are these colors and textures compatible with the lighting designer’s vision? Are they compatible with the costume designer’s fabric choices and color schemes?
These are the broad categories of what I considered when designing my set for The 39 Steps. Through this, I found myself constantly returning to script, making sure that every detail I put into the set had a reason based on the original text.”
Lighting: “Lighting is an art form. It is subtle but very much essential. The process of lighting design is interconnected with every other discipline because lighting affects how all other things on stage are perceived. I take a very no-nonsense approach to lighting design. I think about what I could use to symbolize things in the show, and then think about how I could represent it. Finally, I consider how I could actually implement that in the design, and if or how it is possible.”
Costumes: “Costuming is different from any other art form. When you are painting, you put the paint on the canvas and you create one piece of art. With costuming you’re not making a piece of art as much as a first impression. Few people will look at your work as art, but they will notice it, whether consciously or subconsciously. Costuming helps the viewer get a grasp on the character. It is really something you do every day–you choose what clothes to wear. In doing so you’re deciding what you’re first impression will be and what people will think of you. So costuming is really just looking at a character and deciding what that person would want others to think of them.”