1. Up to thirty inquisitive, quirky, appreciative, talented actors.
2. One director with a list of wants.
3. Tailor’s drafting paper, graph paper, masking tape, scalpel, pencils, scissors, glue.
4. Paint, brushes, rags, sponges, rollers, twigs, feathers, fishing line, crayons.
5. 28 hour days.
5. A heater.
7. A tolerant spouse.
1. Read the play.
2. Listen to the director’s ideas, nod, and agree.
3. Go home and work out the logistics, like how many actors need to sit, stand, or walk through doorways, how many entrances you need for the numbers entering and the speed of entry, how many fly bars the theatre supplies, how many trucks, and how many trapdoors.
4. Design something incredibly beautiful that will work like a dream.
5. Make a model or draw one.
6. Present your design to the director and explain why your design works without even hinting that his would not work logistically and would be as ugly as sin.
6. Keep cool when he has a tantrum and sulks for a day because he wants what he wants and new ideas are scary.
7. Plot with the lighting designer to overthrow the director.
8. Waste another day making a model of the set the director thinks he wants. Let him work out for himself why it doesn’t work and praise him when he thinks he thought of the design and colour scheme you presented to him in the first place.
9. Assemble and your workers. Explain the concept. This helps if you have chosen your painting team because they don’t understand what you are talking about, but they like working for you and know that everything, no matter how weird it seems, will look fantastic in the end.
Theatre sets have to be built in sections because they need to fit through doorways, hang from fly bars or be sent onto the set by a system of devices called trucks. When assembled, everything has to fit together seamlessly. Nothing is meant to trip up an actor or fall on him/her. Doors are not supposed to get stuck, props are not meant to be health hazards, though actors are trusting souls ... I digress.
Final sets are built once they arrive in the theatre. This can take a day or more, depending on the complexity.
Then, hey presto, you have designed a fantasy space to show off a group of talented people who like nothing better than living another life for a while.