Design for the Stage: First Steps

Design for the Stage: First Steps

Design for the Stage: First Steps

Design for the Stage: First Steps


This is the first textbook of its kind to focus on the designer's art rather than on the technical aspects of stage design.

Payne has emphasized conceptual problems and research, and has drawn examples from the writings of E. Gordon Craig, Sean Kenny, Bertolt Brecht, and John Hatch.


There is nothing even mildly extraordinary about me except that I think I am durable and inquisitive in a comprehensive pattern. I have learned much; but I don't know very much; but what I have learned, I have learned by trial and error. And I have great confidence in the meager store of wisdom that I have secured.

R. Buckminster Fuller

The fundamental reason for the existence of this book is to present to beginning students a particular way of approaching scene design; in it design for the stage will be treated as an art, not just a craft. Too often these two aspects of design are separated; the student of scene design becomes so intrigued with the making of working drawings, models, and sketches of interesting possibilities for the stage that he forgets his contribution is not an end in itself but part of a larger effort involving the work and esthetic judgments of many others, not his alone. And yet it is possible for the designer, despite this seemingly severe restriction on his personal expression, to make his contribution to the production at the same level as those of the director and performer. Meeting the stated demands of the script or satisfying the specific requests of the director is certainly part of the designer's job; but it is also possible for him, with his special vision that spans all the arts, to make suggestions that may extend and amplify the underlying meanings of the production in ways that neither the playwright, director, or actor had envisioned. Of course he cannot accomplish this without being an able craftsman; it is imperative that he be a master of the mechanical skills of his profession in order to implement his special visions. But it is entirely possible to be an expert draftsman, carpenter, electrician, and scene painter and still not be an artist of scene design; too often this is the case. While this book is no more than an introduction to that area which lies beyond the basic craft of design, it does attempt to expose some of the elemental yet important questions most students have in their initial confrontation with this second aspect of scene design. Although these questions can never be answered completely, certain directions and possibilities they suggest are indicated . . .

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