Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

tain by doing the whole process step by step. The reasons for this are manifold; but the greatest reason this might be true would depend on the individual designer's previous experience, not only in the actual design of scenery for the stage, but in his exposure to information through travel and allied studies--art history, architecture. Travel gives the designer a firsthand understanding obtainable in no other way, although the study of photographs, books, artworks cannot be discounted.


§22 Research into Action: Romeo and Juliet

"Suit the action to the word, the word to the action." Shakespeare gave this advice to the players in Hamlet, but he meant it for all players everywhere, and while he didn't have the scene designer in mind, nevertheless, that advice holds equally well for him as it does the actor. But before we can determine what these actions in Romeo and Juliet are and just what the designer's responsibility to the production is in this regard, we must find out something about where they happen.

Actually there are, at the beginning of our research, two Veronas, not one. There is the Verona that can be discovered by factual research and there is the Verona of Shakespeare's mind. Just how alike or how different are they? A great part of our job (but not all) is to find out how much of one is in the other. At the end of our work there will be a third Verona, the one we must create on the stage. We must also insure that that Verona will be every bit as vital, an as equally living place as the originals, no matter what style we impose on the production, no matter how much or how little our Verona owes to those other two. Above all, it must be a place where action is possible.

Keep in mind, however, that what will be presented in this example has, to some extent, been put into a logical sequence (although not completely), even though the import of the actual research was not as quickly or easily perceived or organized as it might appear. What is important to note, then, is the clearly exposed principle that the research process does not follow a single line of development from conception to final resolution. In fact, no final resolution will be offered here and it really wouldn't be worth much if it were--what is demonstrated is not how this play should be designed but the means by which one designer did arrive at a solution he considered workable. And, what is even more important to note and comprehend is that the final design will always be in great part the result of many digressions, intu-

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