designers discussion

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AN INTERVIEW WITH A SCENIC DESIGNER Shannon Flynn Shannon Flynn is a Scenic Designer. He is also a technical director for a Black Box theatre. He is also a puppet designer. LM: Leonard Madrid SF: Shannon Flynn LM: Hi, Shannon. SF: You owe me money. LM: How are you? SF: I am good. You? LM: I am well. SF: Ooooh, good grammar. LM: You are a scenic designer. SF: Yes. LM: How did you get into that? SF:I started out as an actor. LM: We are hearing this a lot. SF. It’s not rare. People start out thinking that theatre is just about acting, and then they realize that it takes a whole mess of stuff to make a show work. LM: Like designers? SF: And stage managers. Nothing would every happen anywhere if there weren’t stage managers. I am convinced that before the sun comes up every morning, there’s a stage manager saying “ Light Cue one, go!” LM: That’s pretty funny. SF: Thanks. LM: So you started as an actor, and then. SF: And I needed a job. I started helping out in the scene shop, LM: Because they were cool. SF: Because they paid, and actors didn’t earn much. LM: What happened next? SF: I liked it. So I started learning how to paint, how to build sets, how to read ground plans. Then I took classes in it. LM: How do you approach a script? SF: I usually have a pencil and paper. I read it through looking for things that need to be in the show. Like, if there’s a line that says “Open the door!” There’d better be a door. I usually start sketching ideas of what the show is going to look like to show to the director. LM: That early? SF: Yeah, I like to have ideas right away. I am not married to any of them, so I can just start over if I need to. LM: Is that normal? SF: Most people like to wait until after the first meeting with the director and other designers. I like to do research, find out about the era the play was written in. The history, so I can ask the director “ Are we doing this traditional or different?” SF: After I meet with the director, and he’s given his concept, I start drawing ideas. LM: Like renderings? SF: Yup. And different shows make for different drawings. If we’re doing a new , sleek show I’ll do a computer drawing. If it’s an old fashioned one, I might do a water color or something. LM: Why? SF: Not everybody in the production meeting can come up with pictures in your mind. And the more you can convey your ides, the better. You might be selling an idea in the beginning, but you are also showing the feeling of the show. Is it sleek? Is it rotting? LM: What medium is your favorite? SF: I like white pencil on black paper. LM: Why is that? SF: I don’t know. I think it sort of puts everyone in mind of theatre. With all the black curtains and stuff. The Void. LM: Makes sense. What do you do after everyone sort of agrees on a concept? SF: Then you stop being an artist, and you start being a builder. I have to draft ground plans, elevations, sometimes center line sections. LM: What are those? SF: A ground plan is a bird’s eye view look at the set with measurements and such. The section is a profile look at the stage, like you cut it right down the side. The Elevation is a look at either the front or back of the wall or flats so that everyone cane see how things are put together. Simple ground plan. Not by Shannon. Center line section. Also not by Shannon. Front elevations. Oh, so not by Shannon. LM: What happens next? SF: It really depends on the size of show and type of theatre. If it’s a big theatre with a huge budget, I just sort of show up now and then to check on stuff. If it’s a small theatre, I am building the set. Sometimes we have a show that is a “Build” which means we are making everything from scratch. We’re buying the wood and stuff. Sometimes we have a “Pull” which means we are finding stuff in storage or buying stuff. Sometimes you’re spending every day at ReStore looking for the right doors…or you going to parks looking for fallen tree branches. Last show I did, I had to drag a bunch of bales of hay and windows everywhere. LM: Or wood pallets? SF: Oh yeah! Show them that set. Such a good idea, until we spent half of the budget on fire proofing. LM: It looked good. SF: Thanks. LM: How do you think your experience differs from other set designers? SF: Gee, I don’t know. I work for a small theatre company, and pretty much design everything for them. Some designers have to work job by job as they get them, but my story isn’t rare. LM:Is it different than you thought it would be? SF: I think I thought that it was going to be a bunch of people in black turtle necks smoking cigarettes and using big words. LM: And it isn’t? SF: It can be. I mean you have to know what a periaktoi is, because someone always brings it up. But mostly it’s just people working. And because people really only work with people who they want to work with, it’s usually nice. LM: Everyone’s nice? SF: Er. Nicer. LM: Anything else you’d like to share? SF: Hmm. Yeah. I really like when a show closes and you have spent all this time working on it. You look back and remember “ Three months ago, I didn’t know anything about this play, and now I made it into ….into something cool” LM: Thanks Shannon. SF: You’re welcome. There is much discussion about designers who use a more literal or naturalistic design (this means people who try to make things look as close to real life as possible) and designers who use a more impressionistic or abstract design (meaning that the set looks less realistic). 1-Which type of design do you think makes more sense for you, and why? 2-After designing your own set, what do you think is the biggest challenge for scenic designers? For more help Follow this link to a video about Scenic Designer, Ming Cho Lee. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQJnyZKw_V8 Some Designs from Leonard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_Bv2qgewMc Follow this link to designer, Alex Wardle. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rTAyPlLK0k8 Follow this link to a presentation on scenic design. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tXYX5YXjYaA 1 ...
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Rimmer
School: UC Berkeley

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Discussion Naturalistic Design

The naturalistic design makes more sense for me as scenic designer. The reason being my
audience love and are amazed by literal designs that offer realistic scene. As part of storytelling,
the scene, as well as the characters, needs to be as real and authentic as possible in order to relate
to the s...

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