Design for the Stage: First Steps

By Darwin Reid Payne | Go to book overview

date; the material which has found its way into print usually deals with past productions (accounts of how a certain production was accomplished) or observations in the most general terms. The young designer should expect these newer trends in scene design to accelerate in the future; but much of what he learns about how to produce such a design must be empirically gained. A distinct shortcoming of studying multimedia designs in books is the fact that, unlike the static stage setting which lends itself to pictures, one of the prime features of a multimedia production--the mobility of images--is incapable of being shown.


§26 The Scene Design as a Physical Embodiment of Abstract Qualities: The Caretaker

Although the designer may use actual realistic source materials in the preparation of a design, he may sometimes be more interested in refining from those materials what he considers to be the visual and tactile essences. His purpose is to create a design that, while not recognizable "real," will in some way increase the involvement, understanding, and pleasure of the spectator viewing it and the actor performing within it. In creating such a design, the designer is still doing research much in the manner which we have already observed, but he allows his imagination to take greater liberties with his findings than has been the case in previous examples. He may, for instance, strip away surfaces from their substructures, juxtapose incongruent images and objects in various scales, fracture natural elements or architectural forms, and then recombine them into new structures and arrangements. Let us take a closer look at how and why a designer might choose to work in this manner.

Harold Pinter play The Caretaker takes place in a single location, a room in a derelict building in an old section of London; the time of the action originally was 1959 (the date of the play's composition), but it could very well be the present time with little harm done to the text or intention of the play. While there is no reason to believe that the actual room in which Pinter sets the action of the play exists, it is quite probable that hundreds of such rooms not only do exist in London but could be found and duplicated on the stage (or, as Belasco once did, bought outright, taken apart, and then reassembled in a theater). But would this really satisfy the underlying requirements of the script? Would a naturalistic setting necessarily make the play more correctly pro-

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