Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

for the grotto and going through blue to green to yellow green to golden yellow for the final burst of daylight and humanity.

... The architectural-research and mulling-over period. This meant dispensing with tempting Siamese and Indian temples, turning instead to enlarged photos of microscopic organisms and minerals, studies of jewels and branched quartz. We searched for unusual materials--transparent plastics, oily iridescent surfaces....

The important Dyer's house went through about ten versions, from a darkly real Japanese interior to a sculptural abstraction something like the inside of a broken clay pot (or womb?) lit by a volcanic fireplace. In other words, relevant forms based on nature superseded real period detail to bring out the basic motives. The veined texture of the curved walls was suggested by a photo blow-up of the eye of a frog....

... I tried to use in the model the unconventional materials of the real sets: plastics, crushed glass, jewels, crinkled metal-foil surfaces, etc.


§20 Environment: Creating a Living Atmosphere for the Actor

If it is true that the scene designer is, as Robert Edmond Jones has written, an "artist of occasions," it is equally true that he is an artist of environment. Although not quite the same, these two designations do work hand in hand; what is done is somehow caused by or reflected in where it is being done.

In the theater we think of environment in two major ways; first, its effect on a character or characters (and their reaction to it) and, secondly, its effect on an audience. Environment often is a means of delineating character or story. Playwrights are careful in the selection of an environment--not only the immediate locale but the surrounding area as well--but have limited resources to insure their personal wishes will be respected and observed; while some, as we have earlier noted, try to give this information in various forms of stage directions, their wishes concerning actions of the characters are more likely to be observed than the playwright's notes as to where those actions will be performed. They cannot, as the novelist does, "spell it out." A few have even admit-

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