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Integ121exercises | Exercise Stage Set

Congratulations!

Your group gets to design the set for a new play, Eve of Destruction. It's three acts, eight characters, set in the Donder family kitchen on Christmas Eve.

The kitchen is the centre of the house, with doors leading off to a front room, a bedroom, a hallway with bathroom, and a broad side porch -- where the family "used to pass many an evening, just rocking and watching the sun go down." During Act One, two characters, Eleanor and Elaine, prepare Christmas Dinner: baking, mixing, chopping and storing, while reliving the past year's trials and successes.

At the end of Act One, Brett -- Elaine's eldest son who disappeared suddenly last New Year's Eve -- rings the doorbell and just walks in.

Eleanor, Brett's grandmother, collapses from the shock, centre-stage. Elaine runs into the bedroom to call 9-1-1, leaving Brett kneeling at his grandmother's still form.

"I told you I'd be back," he says, stroking her hair as the curtain falls.

The beginning of Act Two is a challenging scene to stage. In addition to all the kitchenalia from Act One, the room is crowded with a paramedic team and their equipment. Eleanor, now on a gurney, is conscious when the police arrive, and we can tell that there are fire trucks outside.

Brett would rather not be noticed by the police, but can't afford to arouse suspicion by disappearing again. Besides, he needs to stay around to set the record straight about his disappearance -- and to confront some ugly family secrets.

The Set Designer's Challenge

Design a floor plan for the stage set, Act Two, scene one, keeping in mind:

  • it needs to be a believable, "working" kitchen
  • despite intermission, it's only been "a few minutes since she [Eleanor] collapsed"
  • there will be a lot of props and set pieces, both onstage, and stored backstage
  • the characters need to be able to move around, enter and exit
  • Brett needs a way to be inconspicuous, but can't appear to be hiding
  • the audience needs to see everything on stage
  • the audience should not be able to see anything offstage

The theatre, which holds 300 people, has a proscenium arch stage. The visible area of the stage is 15 metres wide at the apron, with 20 metres from the apron to the back wall. There are large wings offstage in both directions.

Questions?

  • Does the kitchen have to be practical, as well as believable?
  • Are all the characters ever onstage at the same time?
  • Could some of the doors be in the fourth wall?
  • Is this a comedy or a drama?

Congratulations, again!

The run of the play has been so successful, it's being taken on tour, and will be visiting 10 regional playhouses over the next 16 weeks. The touring stages vary in size; you can mask the edges of the set for the larger stages, but how can you compress your design to fit the smaller venues 10-14 metres wide, 12-15 metres deep, and still meet all the needs of performance?

Author: -- pdmckone@uwaterloo.ca - 22 Dec 2009