As the next part of our series on New Orleans Theatre, we wanted to talk about the particulars of set design and construction. To dive in, let’s talk about some of the basic goals and strategies that can inform your set design process. Use lightweight construction materials whenever possible but pay attention to the details. Consider the venue and every view point within the venue. Consider the lighting fixtures and technology. Be sure to stay in close communication with the director, costume designer, and the rest of the creative team to make sure everybody is on the same page and stays there. Read and talk about the script in depth. Draw every set and every set piece before construction starts. Create a list of needed tools and materials.
Local New Orleans Theatre and Set Design
From carpentry to pyrotechnics, theaters typically maintain their own in-house set construction team, but not every element of set construction. In fact, there are a couple different local theatre set design companies. With H. Lloyd Hawkins Scenic Studio, theater venues from around the country can rent scenery and set pieces as well as an inventory of 32 opera productions. This studio is also home to a year-round 30,000 square foot design studio with full carpentry and metal shops, a spacious 80’x80’ paint deck and a fully equipped sewing room. They can build props and sets to your specifications or if you have ideas but no design, consult with their resident designer.
Set design and construction is always informed by the venue in which it is produced. In many ways, this is a blessing and a curse. Perhaps, the best example of this locally is Le Petit Theatre. This historic New Orleans’ playhouse is located in the Jackson Square district and has played an important role in our nation’s theatrical history for more than a century. Their current venue was originally built in 1922 and despite renovations and restorations throughout the years, there is limited space and infrastructure available. Nevertheless, the venue is capable of hosting nearly any play or production. It simply requires some combination of creative solutions and a more minimalist aesthetic. And the unique charm of Le Petit Théâtre du Vieux Carré is well worth the challenge. The venue alone brings gravitas and a sense of awe to your production.
DIY Set Construction
If you’re a new theatre company or maybe putting on a one-time production at a converted venue, you might be interested in DIY set design and construction kits. Rather than identify every single construction item and set design piece from scratch, this gives you a leaps-and-bounds head start. Take a look at the Design-Pak© from Scenographics, which consists of easy-to-follow blueprints, color renderings and illustrated detailed instructions for building sets.