Construction, Scenic Painting, Props & Wardrobe
- Construction & Workshop
The Designer engaged for a show or project will produce a model box, a three dimensional miniature version of the set with all scenery and props scaled down to a 1:25 scale. The model is the representation of the Artistic Vision for the show and provides the focus and visual reference for the construction department, scenic artist and props department building the show.The Head of Construction works closely with the Production Manager, Head of Technical Design and Technical Stage Manage to consider the set build with the focus on resolving any practical issues, touring/transfer implications, allocated show budget, build timetable and staff resources before construction drawings are produced for the start of the build.
The construction department are multi-skilled, working with a diverse range of materials from traditional timber to plastics. Each design brings different challenges such as two dimensional mobile Christmas trees built for last year’s production of White Christmas.
The Head of Construction works closely with the Scenic Artist to prioritise the build timetable for any scenic elements requiring several paint processes or techniques.
- Scenic Artist
Scene painting techniques are very different from those of house-painting. The paint used, its application and above all the scale of the work demand a particular style and method.
The Scenic Artist’s job is varied – from large-scale landscapes or interiors designed to persuade an audience they are looking at something three dimensional.
Designers engaged on shows or projects produce a model box detailing the set elements, finish, colour and textures. The Designer and Scenic Artist will discuss paint styles, processes and the finish for each scenic element. This might involve many different processes, techniques and finishes, including one or more of the following: stencilling, graining, sponging, marbling or texturing. A good example would be how you make an 8 x 4 sheet of unpainted plywood look like a period mahogany floorboard – with the use of colour, graining effects, glazes and the requisite skill and experience.
Good communications between the Scenic Artist and Head of Construction are essential when planning and prioritising the set build to take into account processes, techniques and drying time before the set fit-up on stage.
A prop is an object or piece of furniture used on stage by the Actors. Props can range from a bunch of flowers, cushions, curtains, letters and documents to large scale articulated puppets. The range of skills required to work in this busy department is extraordinary ranging from carpentry to sculpting. The attention to detail is crucial and a sound knowledge of art history important.
Designers will produce a model and visual references of the props and furniture for the show or project. The Props Supervisor on the show works closely with the Designer and Director throughout the rehearsal process.
The props department make, buy, re-use/refurbish existing stock, borrow and occasionally hire props and furniture for shows and projects. The furniture and props from previous shows are stored and reused whenever possible to maximise show budgets. The actual furniture and props are ready for the start of rehearsals whenever possible. Providing furniture and props at an early stage assists Directors with the furniture/props needed for blocking and enables actors to work with props before the start of technical rehearsals on stage and make any changes or modifications.
The Stage Management team work closely with the Props Department throughout the rehearsal and performance period and cover any breakages or repairs.
Designers work closely with the Wardrobe Supervisor to assess the costume requirements for each production or project. Designers provide costume drawings and visual references relating to the style, colour and detail for each character in the show.
The process starts with the Wardrobe Supervisor, Designer and wardrobe staff work together to consider the designs and assess the workload. The majority of costumes are made in the department, purchased (depending upon the period of the show), stock is re-used and very occasionally, hired. Finished costumes include a range of accessories such as shoes, hats, jewellery and bags. Equally important is hairstyling, wigs (if appropriate) and make-up.
Costumes from past shows provide a valuable resource and frequently re-used in other shows. The Designer and Wardrobe Supervisor select fabrics for the costumes created in the department. There is a large workroom adjacent to the department, which is a designated area for dyeing fabrics and breaking down costumes. Approximately 40% of all costumes made are broken down to look worn or create a general wear and tear of the garment.
The Head Cutter will allocate the workload in the department for costumes made in house. Actors are called to the department for measurements, usually on the first day of rehearsals. There are several fittings scheduled during the rehearsal period. Fittings are attended by the Designer, Wardrobe Supervisor, Head Cutter/Cutter and provide an opportunity to mark-up the costumes, make alterations if necessary, and establish the finished details such as hem length and choice of buttons or braids. Actors would also attend a hairdressing/wig fitting and make-up consultation session.
The Designer, Wardrobe Supervisor, Head Cutter/Cutter attend technical and dress rehearsals to make any necessary adjustments or solve any costume issues prior to the opening of a show. The Wardrobe Supervisor employs casual staff to work as Dressers on most shows. They have responsibility for setting and checking costumes prior to each performance and assist Actors with quick changes on stage to make sure every show runs smoothly. The final part of the operation is wardrobe maintenance – all costumes are laundered and ironed prior to every show including dry-cleaning if required.