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Take a look at this picture, what do you see? A scale model of a wall with a fireplace.
Dark stained wood trim … green wallpaper with a peacock pattern on it… intricate molding and fireplace surround… a sconce on the wall… candlesticks on the mantel.
Now put these details in context of a play, they all add up to tell a story. In this case, that story answers a question: Mrs. Peacock… in the study… with a candlestick.
This wall panel is for a theoretical play based on the game of Clue. But it illustrates how important the set is to any theatrical production.
The set is one of the most important pieces of a production and often gets overlooked in smaller productions. It is the place that your characters spend all their time, the place they live in, work in, and play in. A good set is a character of its own. You have to make it feel real. An office should feel worked in… a home lived in (unless the character just moved in). The details are what give a set character. A childhood photo of the lead actor on the wall of the family house. A desk knick-knack on a police captain’s desk from her days on the street.
The popular ABC police procedural Castle had a man whose sole job was to create the whiteboards where the team laid out what happened in a crime. Republic of Doyle recreated a popular St. John’s, Newfoundland bar “The Duke” for the show on CBC. Look at the homes of your favorite television or movie characters, the small details that makes it feel like these characters actually live there.
Anyone can put four chairs around a table and call it a dining room set. But that doesn’t feel real, even if it’s a nice room with a nice dining room table and chairs. What is so amazing is how a great set feels so realistic, feels like the family is actually living in that house or that police captain who has been in the same office for 26 years. I want to learn how to make a set feel like a home, feel like it is lived in. It’s fascinating and something I am truly in awe of.