Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

tion: the more "real" the setting, the more intense the desire on the part of this audience to discover its secret, that is, seek out the unreality they know is there. Given time they will; this cannot be done, however, except at the expense of the actor and the play.


§13 Research into Designs

The young designer might well ask, "When do I do the exterior research, when the interior?" The answer is, there is no possible way to determine an absolute and definite priority. Nor will it take the student designer long to realize that research on an actual project doesn't lend itself to easy categorization or a fill-in-the-blanks approach. When he comes face to face with the myriad paths that lead to the research material he needs for his design, the steps are not always clearly or logically defined, the road not marked, and directions on how to get to the information he wants are often vague and confusing. Perhaps the only real hard and fast statement that can be made about the whole process is that one thing found almost invariably gives rise and meaning to what follows--sometimes, but not always. Research, as stated earlier, lies not so much in the ability to assemble a number of clear, independent and unrelated watch-part facts into a predetermined form as in the careful and often tedious tracking of a feeling (for want of a better word) through an uncharted labyrinth of information, some of which is spectacular and visually exciting but not really useful or appropriate to the design, some of which is deceptively simple but useful and necessary. Many designers, while not always admitting it aloud, are not altogether sure of what they are looking for; sometimes it takes time for them to give meaning and importance to what at first is the vaguest of feelings that what they have found is, indeed, important. But part of the artist's working technique and function is to recognize the useful and correct detail even when it is accidently encountered, even if he has no real reason for feeling as he does. This does not mean the designer-researcher is nothing more than a supersensitive but unthinking receiving machine which merely absorbs and then proceeds to capitalize on its accidental finds; rational selection, careful tracking of clues, and the ability to reject the easy solution are also fundamental parts of his working procedure. The point to be made here is, however, that an openly inquisitive nature is as important as skill in painting or a working knowledge of stagecraft techniques and practices. This type of curiosity and interest in the search for the "right" way is in itself a highly

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