From Concept Sketch to Materialisation on Stage: Secret Bridesmaids’ Business

A rough initial sketch of what I think the set should look like

Note: Blog post first posted at TheatreFace on November 18, 2012, before this blog was set up.

Designing for Secret Bridesmaids’ Business is a rather unlikely thing for me as I have always been designing stylised and/ or abstract sets since my first set design project in college. I always feel that realistic sets is not my forte as I am not a person that like to go into fine details about what should be in the setting.

A rough initial sketch of what I think the set should look like

A rough initial sketch of what I think the set should look like

A more detailed rendering of the set on computer

A more detailed rendering of the set on computer

To design a set for this version of Secret Bridesmaids’ Business is a challenge. Being relatively naturalistic in style, we do not have a decent budget or a theatre space big enough to support it unfortunately. To cut down the cost on fabrication of set, I have to reuse some of our old stock flats that were already in not-so-good condition for most of the walls of the set. I also reused the venue’s Nivoflexes (once again) to create a raised platform in the set, and then laying them over with stock floorboards to be painted and textured to look like wooden floor. Then I have to go source for cheap furniture pieces (practically every single piece in the setting as we had almost no stock furniture pieces, or the ones we had looked like they should belong in the rubbish collection centre. Fortunately, I managed to get into contact with a local furniture shops that deals with cheap yet elegant looking furniture pieces (mostly on sale), but I had to constantly press my production manager for money so as to make sure that they would not be sold out before I could get my hands on them.

 

Setting up the stage: reusing Nivoflexes (once again) to create a raised platform

Setting up the stage: reusing Nivoflexes (once again) to create a raised platform

Setting up stock flats with newly-made window frame. Notice the "wrinkles" of the stock flats due to their old age (about four year-old); should have been given a face-lift long ago!

Setting up stock flats with newly-made window frame. Notice the “wrinkles” of the stock flats due to their old age (about four year-old); should have been given a face-lift long ago!

Painting over floorboards laid over the Nivoflexes and laying of carpet for downstage acting area

Painting over floorboards laid over the Nivoflexes and laying of carpet for downstage acting area

Drawing fake groove lines suggesting parquet flooring with markers

Drawing fake groove lines suggesting parquet flooring with markers

Moving in of furniture pieces

Moving in of furniture pieces

The set with the backdrop up

The set with the backdrop up

Hanging up of curtains

Hanging up of curtains

 

As for the theatre space, we are staging it in a rather small blackbox, and the main set already occupied more than 3/4 of the space. I had this really big window with a scenery of the Sydney skyline in the background. Since there is no depth for backdrop projection, and we do not have budget to get a painted backdrop, we had the scenery painted on PVC canvas, and made lots of holes in the backdrop so that lights could be shoned through the holes to create an illusion of lit urban buildings during night scenes. However, due to the close distance between the backdrop and the window, there was a lot of spillage of face light onto the backdrop. In view of that, I made the decision to close up the translucent curtain of that window throughout the entire show. The effect of the lit buildings became less obvious because of that, and although it was a pity, but I would rather forgo that, than to have a “night scenery” that is as bright as a skyline at dawn.

Shadows of the window frame casted onto the backdrop due to spillage of face light

Shadows of the window frame casted onto the backdrop due to spillage of face light

A much better window view after the curtains were drawn, but details on scenic backdrop were lost

A much better window view after the curtains were drawn, but details on scenic backdrop were lost

Holes made with penkives on the backdrop

Holes made with penkives on the backdrop

 

Effect of backdrop when lit from the back; unfortunately they were not very obvious when the curtains were drawn

Effect of backdrop when lit from the back; unfortunately they were not very obvious when the curtains were drawn

This is my first attempt at designing a naturalistic set for theatre, and although responses to the set design were relatively good, I felt it could have been made better. The walls of the hotel room, for instance, could be in two tones instead of having just one uniform colour. A thinner material could have been used for the curtains as well, so that the set could be better contextualised by the scenery behind the window. Not forgetting that more decors can be used to deck up the roomtoo, if budget permits.

 

Portfolio with stage shots can be viewed here.

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Author: aaron yap

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