Understanding Set Design by Katie Hatfield Objective



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Understanding Set Design by Katie Hatfield
Objective:

Students will demonstrate their ability to think and work as designers as they interpret and create set designs for a particular scene of a play.


Class Level:

Intermediate


Main Concepts:

Students will come to an understanding of close readings and concept analyses of scripts; obtain a basic, working knowledge of the elements of design; and create sketches, renderings, and models of their scenic design.


1994 National Standards:

CONTENT STANDARD 3: Designing and producing by conceptualizing and realizing artistic interpretations for informal or formal productions.

CONTENT STANDARD 5: Researching by evaluating and synthesizing cultural and historical information to support artistic choices.
Description:

This course is intended for junior and senior level technical theatre students. These students will come to this class with a prior understanding of stage space, equipment, tools, theatre history, and production management. Each lesson is planned for a 50 minute class.


Lesson Plans

Lesson 1: Introducing the Text and Learning the Process of Script Analysis

Students will come to an understanding of the purposes of first, second, and third readings of scripts and will be introduced to script analysis techniques.
Lesson 2: Understanding the Research Process

Students will come to an understanding of the importance of historical and stylistic research in set design. They will learn what resources to use as they consider design concepts for their assigned scene. Students will learn how to incorporate research with elemental design processes.


Lesson 3: Creating a Design Concept

Students will be able to articulate their design concept through a written work. Students will be given the opportunity to meet and discuss their ideas and concepts of design for their particular scene with other members of the class. From their reading, analysis, and research, they will create a conceptual design statement for their project.


Lesson 4: Understanding Design, Composition, and Color

Students will come to an understanding of design elements, the principles of composition, and the effects of color and texture in scenic design. Students will present a picture, object, etc. that portrays the essence of their conceptual design statement.


Lesson 5: Putting Ideas Together

Considering their analysis, research, and concept statement, students will create a rough, thumbnail sketch of their proposed design.


Lesson 6: It's all in the Details

From their thumbnail sketches, students will create a more complete, colorful rendering of their set design. They will include samples of their color palette and any fabrics, textures, or other materials that will be included in their final design.


Lesson 7: To-Scale Models

Students will demonstrate the skills necessary to create a production model that is to scale.


Lesson 8: Computer Age

Although for this unit, students will not be required to create a computer presentation of their set design, it would be interesting and applicable to invite a guest designer to share some of their computer work with the students. The objective of this lesson, then, would be for students to be exposed to and become aware of the various modes of set design.


Lesson 9: Problems? Working it Out

Students will be able to recognize problems or difficulties in the design process and use appropriate modes of communication with their peers to help solve those problems.


Lesson 10: The Presentation

Students will present their production model to the class. They will discuss their design process and concept in a clear, focused oral presentation.



1: Introducing the Text and Learning the Process of Script Analysis
Objective

Students will come to an understanding of the purposes of first, second, and third readings of scripts and will be introduced to script analysis techniques.


Materials Needed

Photocopies of selected scenes from five plays: Sabrina Fair, The Diary of Anne Frank, Barefoot in the Park, The Importance of Being Earnest, and The Mousetrap


Two minute audio example from something like, The Edgar Allan Poe Audio Collection 
Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Play the audio clip once and have students summarize the poem. Play the audio clip a second time and have students describe the visual and textural images they find. Play the audio clip a third time and have students give specific examples of what would be needed in a set design if the poem were to be performed.


Instruction

Step 1: Transition – Discuss with the class the information obtained from each listening. List those items on the board:

First Listen

General story line


Nature of characters
Relationship of characters
Physical environment
Flavor of poem

Second Listen

Specific moments within the poem that provide strong visual and textural images
Impressions
Emotions

Third Listen

Mechanical requirements of set

Necessary components such as doors, windows, etc.


Identifying areas for further research

Instruction – Explain the importance of analysis and its role in the scenic design process. Inform students that in order to have a clear focus for their designing process it is imperative to read the script several times, analyzing each time for different elements. Explain that other input i.e. the director’s production concept and the production circumstances will factor into their design, but that for the purposes of this project, they will assume the directorial role and design for the circumstances present on the school stage.

Step 2: Modeling – Script analysis exercise. Read an excerpt from a short scene from one of the assigned plays. This should be an alternative scene than the one you will be assigning and should also be a portion of the script that acknowledges the utilization of a set, i.e. a large bell tower is seen through the window.
As a class, begin asking questions that will help define the set. Write answers on the board.
Where does the scene take place?
When does the scene take place?
Is this an interior or exterior space?
Are there windows, doors, stairs, etc.?
What is this scene about?
What images does the scene create for you?
What is the scene about?
What type of theme does the scene portray?
What areas within the scene do we need to research further?

Step 3: Instruction – Have students get in groups of approximately four per group. Pass out the assigned scenes to each group. Offer students a synopsis of the plays they have received. Give students time to read through their scene a couple of times within their groups and discuss their images and impressions of the scene with each other.

Step 4: Checking for Understanding – Have each group choose a spokesperson to tell the class some of the impressions shared regarding the scene.

Step 5: Guided Practice – Individually, have students write down questions and responses that they will need to know regarding their individual set design project for their chosen scene.


Assessment

Have students turn in their scene analysis.


Author's Notes

They will be assigned a scene from a play and will be expected to answer certain questions regarding the play. (Five plays will be used for this unit with approximately four students working on the same play, yet performing individual research and creating separate designs.)



2: Understanding the Research Process
Objective

Students will come to an understanding of the importance of historical and stylistic research in set design. They will learn what resources to use as they consider design concepts for their assigned scene. Students will learn how to incorporate research with elemental design processes.


Materials Needed

A picture of ancient Grecian ruins, a picture of the interior of a turn-of-the-century English parlor, a picture of the interior of a Gothic Medieval Cathedral.


Related Documents

  • Lesson 2 Photos.1 

  • Lesson 2 Photos.2 


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Display each of the pictures and have the students determine what each picture is showing, i.e. Grecian ruins, English parlor in the 1900’s, Medieval Cathedral. Then, have the students articulate the elements in each of the pictures that helps bring them to those conclusions.


Instruction

Step 1: Transition – Explain that each of the elements discussed provide historically accurate visual clues that will help the audience identify the period of the play.

Checking for Understanding – Ask students why it is important that an audience be able to identify the period of a play.

Instruction – Explain that “scenery helps the audience understand and enjoy a play by providing a visual reinforcement of the production concept.” Explain further that “a scenic design is not a reproduction; but a creation that mirrors the essence of a period to provide a physical environment that will enhance the mood and spirit of the play.”

Checking for Understanding – Ask students what type of resources they might research when planning a realistic set design.

Step 2: Modeling – Using their computers, have students look at websites that will help them understand the styles, architecture, and design trends of turn-of-the-century, middle class, England. Have everyone go to: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/1900house/house/index.html and take the virtual tour of the front parlor.

Checking for Understanding – As students peruse the sight, have them tell what sort of useful information they found for designing a Victorian parlor.

Modeling – Have students go to the search engine “Google” and type in the words “Victorian interior design.”

Checking for Understanding – Ask students how they might narrow their search even more to find the information they need to accurately represent the period through their set design.

Modeling – Have students turn to the school library catalogue and enter a general keyword search such as the one used in Google, “Victorian interior design.” Have students discover what reference materials are available to them in the library for research.

Step 3: Guided/Independent Practice – Have students begin their own search for valuable historical, design, and aesthetic information that will contribute to their final set design. Assign students the task of providing bibliographic information for at least two sources they find and can use for their design.
Assessment

Students will turn in their bibliographic information.


Author's Notes

Note – This class will take place in the library or computer lab where students have access to the internet.



3: Creating a Design Concept
Objective

Students will be able to articulate their design concept through a written work. Students will be given the opportunity to meet and discuss their ideas and concepts of design for their particular scene with other members of the class. From their reading, analysis, and research, they will create a conceptual design statement for their project.


Materials Needed

A picture of a Nazi concentration camp, an excerpt of music from the movie Schindler’s List, and a dried up flower. A visual of a set design. An apple.


Related Documents

  • Lesson Three Concentration Camp Photos 

  • Lesson Three Set Design Photo 


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Show the picture and the flower while playing a portion of the music for the class. Modeling - Describe a design concept of The Diary of Anne Frank that includes loneliness, betrayal, and lost hope. Ask the students to describe how those words and images will affect the scenic design.


Instruction

Step 1: Instruction – Explain that all the concepts we’ve learned up to this point will help the students as they decide how they want to portray the mood and spirit of the play through their scenic design. Ask students to describe another concept that might be used to describe the mood and feeling of The Diary of Anne Frank. Explain that students are not limited to one idea, but that they may choose the feel of their scene based on how they want their audiences to understand the play. Write their ideas on the board.

Step 2: Checking for Understanding – Display a visual of a set design. Ask students to name some objects, words, or types of music that may have been the inspiration for that particular design. Again, write their ideas on the board.

Step 3: Instruction – Place a generic object, such as an apple, in front of the class. Have them begin to write how that apple might be a design statement for their particular scene.

Step 4: Checking for Understanding – Have at least one student from each scene share their statement with the class.

Step 5: Guided Practice – Have students begin to work on their written statements for their own design concept.


Assessment

On the following day, students will turn in a half page written statement accompanying a picture, object, or audio representation of their design concept for their assigned scene.



4: Understanding Design, Composition, and Color
Objective

Students will come to an understanding of design elements, the principles of composition, and the effects of color and texture in scenic design. Students will present a picture, object, etc. that portrays the essence of their conceptual design statement.


Materials Needed

Four or five stylized paintings, four visuals of different set designs


Related Documents

  • Set Design Photos

  • Paintings 


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

As class begins, turn out the lights and ask students to describe the mood and feeling of the atmosphere they are in. Then turn on a small lamp in the classroom or a computer monitor or an overhead – just something that gives off a small amount of light. Again, ask students to describe the aesthetic of the atmosphere. Finally, turn on all the lights and ask students to describe the way each differently lit atmosphere affected the mood and tone present.


Instruction

Step 1: Transition – Discuss with the class the different types of elements that contributed to each different aesthetic. Write those elements on the board. Ask students to define each element as well.


Style – A manner of producing a play in which all production elements (costumes, scenery, lights, acting) adhere to a common set of artistic/philosophical characteristics


Line – A mark that connects two points defined by dimension, quality and character
Shape – Any line that encloses a space creates a shape
Mass – Three-dimensional manifestation of shape
Measure – Ability to judge the size of objects and relative distance between them without the aid of measuring devices
Position – Distance between objects and their placement relative to forms around them
Color – Generates psychological and cultural reactions
Texture – Visual or tactile surface characteristics or appearance of an object

Step 2: Instruction – Explain that drawings created by designers need to be guided by these elements of design and that in the end, their creations utilizing skillful knowledge of these elements, will imply specific meanings to an audience viewing the show. Explain that in order to create this type of meaningful work, students need not only to understand the individual elements of design, but how they can be coordinated with each other to create that cohesive design.

Guided Practice – Put students in small groups and give each group a stylized painting to look at. Ask students to describe the style of the painting as well as how each element of design contributes to their understanding of that style.

Check for Understanding – Have students share their conclusions with the class.

Step 3: Instruction – Explain that all of the conclusions drawn about the paintings had to do with the principles of composition that help to create meaning through coordinating the elements of design. List the principles of composition on the board:

Unity – The creation of a stylistic plan to which all parts of the design subscribe – that plan being the design concept covered a day previously


Harmony – The sense of blending and unity that is obtained when all elements of a design fit together to create an orderly, congruous whole
Contrast – The juxtaposition of dissimilar design elements
Variation – Providing visual interest through variation of the monotonous elements
Balance – The arrangement of design elements to give a sense of restfulness, stability, or equilibrium to the design
Proportion – The harmonious relationship of the parts of an object to each other or to the whole
Emphasis – Directing the audiences attention to a specific place of the set
Modeling – Choose one of the paintings to display in front of the class. As you point out examples of each principle of composition, have the students say which principle it is.

Step 4: Checking for Understanding – As time allows, show some of the set designs and have students discuss what compositional elements create the mood and meaning of each scenic design.


Assessment

Students will orally decipher how compositional and design elements are used in the set designs displayed and what overall effect they have on the perceived understanding of the themes of the production. Also, have students turn in their design concept statement and object.



5: Putting Ideas Together
Objective

Considering their analysis, research, and concept statement, students will create a rough, thumbnail sketch of their proposed design.


Materials Needed

Cartoon, plain paper for students, examples of thumbnail sketches of set designs


Related Documents

  • Sketches


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Display and read aloud cartoon to class. The cartoon can be anything you want - check out your local newspaper for a one-frame cartoon.  I would suggest covering up the "punchline" or "dialogue" or "explanation" so that there is just the picture there for students to look at.


Instruction

Step 1: Transition – Explain that we are able to understand a great deal from that one picture. Explain how in set design, we have that one image to portray all we want to say. Discuss how rough sketches can help portray how we want our set to look and what we want it to say. They can also help other designers get an idea and a feel for the style and mood we want people to understand through the design.

Step 2: Instruction – Display the examples of thumbnail sketches. Note that they are rough drawings, usually made in pencil, that show the general composition of the set, but very little detail.
Check for Understanding – Ask students what the purpose of thumbnail sketches are. (To provide a rough visualization of various scenic concepts. To see how ideas about a scenic design look on paper. To have a rough outline to start the design from.)

Step 3: Guided Practice – Pass out the plain paper and give students the remaining class time to draw a thumbnail sketch of their scenic design based off of their design concept.


Assessment

Students will turn in their thumbnail sketches.



6: It's all in the Details
Objective

From their thumbnail sketches, students will create a more complete, colorful rendering of their set design. They will include samples of their color palette and any fabrics, textures, or other materials that will be included in their final design.


Materials Needed

A piece of wood, a rock, some leaves, a piece of burlap; pieces of paper; colored pencils, crayons, or colored markers; examples of colored renderings


Related Documents

  • Lesson Six Color Renderings 


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Have the students get into groups of four or five. Give each group one of the objects listed above. Have paper and colored pencils available. Instruct students to begin roughly drawing the object on their paper. Tell them to include more detail than they had in their thumbnail sketches such as a visible texture, more defined shape, and color. Explain that the drawing does not need to be, by any means, an exact replica. Allow students about ten minutes to work on these drawings.


Instruction

Step 1: Transition – Have students discuss the difficulties they encountered when drawing a representation of their object. Have them also discuss what went well and what was easy for them.

Step 2: Instruction – Explain that “drawing and rendering are the primary visual-communication methods used by theatrical designers. Every designer must be able to draw and render with ease and facility.” 
1. Lines must represent the qualities of the materials they represent
2. You should be familiar with the physical characteristics of the materials you’re drawing
3. You must know what you’re drawing before you can draw it
Remember, a rendering does not need to create a photographic likeness. It is a simplified view and differs from the thumbnail sketch in that it is more detailed and in color. It portrays the colors, textures, shapes and styles that give your design that evocative nature of the design concept.

Step 3: Modeling – Display the colored renderings for the class. As a class, discuss the qualities of the renderings that students should seek to model. Explain that the only requirement for students’ renderings is that, again, they be an accurate representation of the mood and spirit of the students’ design concept for their scene.

Step 4: Guided Practice – Allow students the remaining class time to begin working on their colored renderings of their scenic designs. Be sure to pass back their thumbnail sketches so they have that original idea to go off of.
Assessment

In two days, students will turn in their finished, colorful rendering.



7: To-Scale Models
Objective

Students will demonstrate the skills necessary to create a production model that is to scale.


Materials Needed

Paper, tape, cardstock, and rulers for each student; example of a scale set design model; puzzle


Related Documents

  • Pictures of Model Sets


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

As students arrive, have them gather in a circle on the floor. Give them five minutes to put the puzzle together that is in the center of the floor.


Instruction

Step 1: Transition – Ask students what was needed in order for them to see the complete picture of the puzzle. (Collaboration, all the pieces, an idea of the theme of the puzzle that leads one to conclusions about what the end product should look like, a bit of effort, etc.)

Step 2: Instruction – Explain that just like the puzzle, the design model is a final culmination of the design concept, the preliminary sketches, and the renderings. It presents the details of the set design fully to help everyone working on it know exactly how it’s supposed to look, what goes where, etc. The model is generally fully painted and completely decorated with all of the furniture, props, and set dressing that will be used during the production. However, for our purposes, furniture, props, and set dressing will be left out. To better understand the relationship between the set, stage, and audience and to have an accurate representation of the finished set, the model will be to scale and three dimensional.
Check for Understanding – Ask students what function the model serves. (The model verifies and solidifies the design concept.)

Step 3: Modeling – Have students return to their desks. Pass out a piece of paper, a piece of cardstock, a pair of scissors, and a ruler to each student. Talk students through an exercise in which you instruct them to draw a line so far up on their cardstock, using their ruler. They will be drawing the dimensions of the stage, the dimensions that their set design will need to adhere to. Next, talk them through measurements to draw on their piece of paper noting that the measurements being used are on a ½” to 1’0” scale. Have students cut the paper on the measured lines they have drawn. Instruct them now to fit and fasten their cut-out paper vertically onto the measured lines drawn on the cardstock. Yes, it’s like kindergarten, but we have just created an extremely simplified functional design model.


Check for Understanding – Ask students what questions they might have about creating their own design model.

Step 4: Instruction – Show the example of a scale design model. Allow students to come around and see all of its aspects. Explain that their models will need to have colors and textures drawn on them and that the model needs to be to scale according to the dimensions of the school’s stage. (Ex. 40’ x 30’).

Step 5: Closure – Instruct students that their design model will be the culminating and final project of the set design section. They will need to prepare a short presentation for the class including the name of their play, the design concept they have chosen, their thumbnail sketch and color rendering and their production model. 
Assessment

On the final day of the unit, students will present a simplified version of a scale model of their scenic design and a brief explanation on how they came to design what they did.



8: Computer Age
Objective

Although for this unit, students will not be required to create a computer presentation of their set design, it would be interesting and applicable to invite a guest designer to share some of their computer work with the students. The objective of this lesson, then, would be for students to be exposed to and become aware of the various modes of set design.


Materials Needed

guest artist


Lesson Directions

*Ideally, this class would take place as a field experience in which students would go to a professional theatre and meet with the head scenic designer there. She/he would show them how he drafts his set designs on a computer program to have a very accurate representation of the set that needed to be built. She/he would then show them the sketches, renderings, models, and computer presentations of the set design for the current show. The students would then be allowed into the theatre to view the actual, fully mounted design.

This sort of a field trip would be a great experience! I might think of combining it with lighting design, costume design, and sound design. Then, it would be a bit meatier trip.

The alternative to taking the field trip is simply to invite the professional into the classroom that day and give the same presentation, just without the benefit of seeing the work space, the tools, and the actual finished product of the set design.


Assessment

Students will be graded on their attendance and attentiveness for this class.



9: Problems? Working it Out
Objective

Students will be able to recognize problems or difficulties in the design process and use appropriate modes of communication with their peers to help solve those problems.


Materials Needed

student work materials


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Allow students time to discuss their projects and any subsequent problems they are experiencing. Students will be given time to assist each other in overcoming those problems and will be able to continue working on their production models.


Instruction

With all of their research, analysis, concepts, sketches, and renderings students will be partnered with another classmate. The students will explain their concepts to each other and how they are articulating that concept through their design. Each student will be asked to offer their partner three suggestions to help the design become clearer as well as three compliments on things the student has done well or achieved in their design. 

Students will be given the rest of the class to continue working on their functional models.

As students work on their models, the teacher will visit with each student and discuss their project and any concerns or questions they might have.


Assessment

Again, students will be graded on their attendance on “on task” effort. Students will turn in their peer’s comments regarding their projects with their final presentation.



10: The Presentation
Objective

Students will present their production model to the class. They will discuss their design process and concept in a clear, focused oral presentation.


Materials Needed

Yummies of some sort


Related Documents

  • Set Design Final Evaluation 


Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook

Give everyone a treat to calm their nerves and reward them for their work.


Instruction

Hooray! The final day. This day will be used to hear presentations from each student. If there is time left over at the end, we will discuss the importance of each of these aspects of set design and how they function and relate to all the other aspects of technical theatre.


Assessment

Presentation and completed set design projects (rendering and model).


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