1. GENERAL HEADING: Visual Materials
2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Designing a Production"
3. GOALS: To urge students to visualize possible set and costume designs as they read playtexts.
4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Six or more.
5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: Copies of various popular magazines, such as Vogue, Architectural Digest, Redbook, etc. and some well-illustrated collections of familiar masterpieces of European, Asian and other traditions of painting, sculpture and architecture.
6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: One hour.
7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: After deciding upon a play the students would like to work on, divide them into at least two groups of two or more students. Distribute the two kinds of sources to them, asking them to look for potential designs or inspirations for costumes and settings for a production of the play. They may want to assign the roles of costumer and set designer, or just look freely for whatever inspires them. After certain illustrations catch their eye, they should begin to analyze WHY those pictures seem appropriate, and talk about these possibilities within their group. After at least 15 minutes, the entire group should come together to demonstrate what visual "world of the play" they have come up with, and explain why they think it would work in production.
8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: What elements of costume and set might be called for by the playtext? What do the various poetic images suggest about the play's world? (For example, what do we know about the Forest of Arden, or the Wood of Dream:?) What costume choices seem to be appropriate for different characters? Importantly, how might set and costumes CHANGE in the course of the performance, for what reasons, and toward what ends?
9. REFERENCE: Clare-Marie Wall
10. ADDITIONAL READING: N.A.
11. VARIATIONS: Students could find a series of illustrations for a
particular play, scene, character, etc., and then hold them up: other class
members could guess what those plays, scenes, characters are. This exercise
might reveal certain common denominators in their visualizations, for example,
that a forest must be green. They could then interrogate their shared assumptions;
for example, does Arden have to be green? Does Desdemona have to be blond?
Do palaces have to be ritzy?