Scenery: A Manual of Scene Design

By Harold Helvenston | Go to book overview

THE EXTERIOR SCENE

The Natural Exterior

THE PSYCHOLOGY of the audience should be taken into consideration in the matter of designing scenery, especially exteriors. The average audience accepts interiors more readily than exteriors, either because there is a certain sameness to the average interior or because of the limited knowledge of most audiences as regards period design. The average American would naturally accept as correct an eighteenth-century drawing-room done in the French manner--usually because lie has never seen one. In taking anyone out of his particular environment into a strange surrounding, the artist is usually safe with even an adequate representation. But with exterior settings it is different. Nature is more or less familiar to all, for everyone has had some chance to observe common botanical forms. Each has his own idea of a tree or a mountain, and it is very hard to represent these common objects satisfactorily unless the artist has been fairly true and sincere in his use of artificial materials. In some cases it is very risky to represent trees simply by their trunks or a forest by a single tree, even though the play calls for, or suggests, such treatment. Localized settings, moreover, must be accurate in detail and feeling, especially if the production is made in the particular vicinity of the setting.

Another important point to be considered is the use of real objects as part of an exterior scene. It is generally recognized that under artificial stage lighting most real objects become deadened in visual effect. A real log cabin on a stage has a tendency to look lifeless simply because the natural color of the logs is not affected by stage light as it is by the even, natural light in which it is ordinarily viewed. Bushes and flowers always become dull under artificial light; hence it is better to avoid the real objects altogether and, in their place, to employ good artificial varieties of materials which, when properly painted, will combine with stage light to produce an effect that is realistic if not more striking than the actual object viewed under its natural light. The only exception is, of course, in the production of outdoor pageants and presentations, in which one usually finds it necessary to support the scene or augment the properties with real landscape effects.

The creation of convincing exterior illusion being so difficult, I consider it desirable to set down a number of suggestions about

A proposed scene for O'Neill's The Emperor Jones, designed by Frederick Stover. Tall tree trunks and vines are generally a problem to the de signer.

-61-

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Scenery: A Manual of Scene Design
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page v
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Illustrations xv
  • Scenery and the Designer 3
  • A Process for Scene Design 11
  • A Process for Scene Design Working Drawings 17
  • A Process for Scene Design - The Scene Model 32
  • Light in the Scene 38
  • Scene Painting 51
  • The Exterior Scene - The Natural Exterior 61
  • The Exterior Scene the Architectural Exterior 68
  • Economy in Cost of Construction and Materials 72
  • The Strange Case of Scenery 79
  • The Scene Webster 83
  • Index 91
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