Setting the Stage for Creativity

The campers in Doug Tatters’ Introduction to Technical Theatre! class were physically in their seats on a recent morning at SCATS, but they were a million miles away in their imaginations.

This was, of course, all by design. The campers were charged to imagine and illustrate the setting of a classic fairy tale. Some were off in the woods, home to the Three Little Bears; others were inside Cinderella’s castle. The curved bridge of the Three Billy Goats Gruff showed up in drawings across the room, and Caleb G. took things up a notch by including “Easter eggs” to each of the fairy tales in the backdrop to his scene.

The renderings, 2D drawings of the stage as viewed by the audience, are the first step in set design, Tatters said as he prepared to lead the students through step 2, the ground plan. “We’re doing this from a bird’s eye view,” he said, noting that while the rendering provides a colorful view, the ground plan is all about logistics.

“Your piece of graph paper is your stage,” Tatters said, providing reminders as he passed out the paper. “Actors need to be visible at all times, and you want to use all the stage. You also want things to be balanced. You want it to be visually appealing; you don’t want it to feel cluttered.”

The campers practiced translating the squares on their graph paper to the real world (2 squares on the paper were equal to 1 square foot on stage). “Math is a universal skill,” Tatters said. “We use it in the theater too.”

Then it was time for collaboration and creative thinking as the campers chose which rendering to use as their inspiration. Henry S. and Kawaya O. got started on The Three Billy Goats Gruff while Ariana L. and Sophia F. worked on Goldilocks and The Three Bears.

Once the ground plans were complete, it would be on to the building phase. “In the design world, this scale model is used to represent what the set would actually look like,” Tatters said.

Set design is just one piece of this unique SCATS class. Campers will also learn about makeup and more using the terms and techniques found in the real world.

2024 SCATS Introduction to Technical Theatre