The script is
the foundation
upon which any
production is

You might be forgiven for thinking that the stage design process begins with a sketch; it doesn’t. The stage design process begins with the script.

The Script 2

Watch Artistic Director of The Old Vic Matthew Warchus and theatre designer Rob Howell discuss how the script inspires the design process. The full video series can be found in our How to put on a musical resource).

As designers, we want you to get used to the idea of the script being the basis for all your design ideas and choices.

Your imagination, and that of the stage director with whom you will be collaborating, will hopefully be ignited by the words the playwright has written in the script.

You and your director should read through the script several times to help develop your interpretation and decide on what kind of version of the story you want to create onstage. It can be helpful to work through the script scene by scene, breaking down the action into smaller chunks and then seeing how to piece it back together.

More often than not, a playwright will leave clues (both intentional and unintentional) that can help you develop your stage design. These could be in the form of explicit stage directions, or in less explicit comments the characters make about their surroundings, for example.

The Script 3

Before you arrive at the model box stage, you and your director should have developed an interpretation of the script and decided on the kind of story you want to tell and how you want to tell it. If you allow yourself to be inspired by the script in this way, your stage designs should always be authentic to your own unique personal and emotional response to the script. The same script could inspire thousands of different design interpretations.

Make sure that you always have the script of whichever play you are working on close at hand throughout the design process – you’ll need to refer back to it often!