Scenic Designer


The Scenic Designer is responsible for the visual appearance and function of the scenic elements used in the production. To translate the scenic design from the concept to the stage, the designer produces colored sketches or renderings of the sets and properties, scale models of the various sets, and scale mechanical drawings that fully describe the settings. (Based on the description in J. Michael Gillette’s Theatrical Design and Production, 6th ed.)


  1. Read the script several times, taking note of overall story and theme and specific physical needs. Determine research and dramaturgical needs.
  2. Consult the departmental production calendar and note all due dates. It is important that you meet these dates because it affects the work of so many other people.
  3. Attend all design and production meetings. Make sure the stage manager has all of your current contact information.
  4. Obtain a current groundplan of the theater from your mentor or the technical director.
  5. Schedule a conversation about the play with the director and your mentor. Whenever possible it is best if this includes the entire design team.
  6. Research as necessary and discuss with your mentor.
  7. Draft preliminary groundplan in Vectorworks and prepare a preliminary white model (this may be done physically or digitally using Vectorworks or other programs such as SketchUp). You must show these to your mentor at least one full day before you present it to your director. After the meeting with the director, discuss changes with your mentor.
  8. Make design revisions as necessary. Note that it may take several versions until you get to a design that solves the director’s needs and has artistic integrity. Again, you must discuss all revisions with your mentor before you present them to your director.
  9. Begin a furniture plot. Identify which pieces we have, which are to be rented or borrowed, and which will need to be built. Typically, you will be responsible for finding all furnishings.
  10. Once a white model is approved, use Vectorworks to draft the show in the following suggested order:
  11. ¼” groundplan with masking
  12. centerline section
  13. composite plans/furniture plans by scene if necessary
  14. (The following drawings will probably need multiple plates)
  15. platforms for main deck(s)
  16. front elevations of large “wall” surfaces
  17. front elevations of additional masking or secondary walls
  18. additional scenic items in order of largest to smallest
  19. backdrops and cycs
  20. built furniture pieces
  21. built properties
  22. Additional drawings may be needed, depending upon the nature of the design. The idea is to produce drawings in a systematic and complete manner, working from largest to smallest.
  23. All drawings must be shown to your mentor one full day before they are due to the technical director. This gives you time to revise, clarify, or redraw your plates as necessary. You may need to make further revisions and clarifications after meeting with the technical director.
  24. Note that the initial drawing due dates should include platforms, walls, and any large scenic elements. The second set of drawings includes any remaining smaller items that need to be constructed. These dates allow the technical director time to budget the show both for materials and construction time. Note that drawings submitted after these dates may or may not be constructed or may be changed depending on the budget.
  25. Revise drawings as necessary to meet budget. Discuss build schedule with your mentor and the technical director.
  26. Set a meeting to discuss masking with the lighting designer, technical director, and your mentor. This is something that is often put off but it is crucial to the lighting designer that they know early on what backstage lighting positions are available to them. This meeting must happen well in advance of when the light plot is due.
  27. Set a meeting as early as possible with the director, stage management team, and prop master to discuss each and every prop in detail and how it will be used. At this point you should provide the prop master with a detailed list of set dressings. You should go through prop storage to see what dressings and props are usable. As props are added in rehearsal, be sure you find out the same information and watch for prop use during the run-throughs that you attend.
  28. Attend the first rehearsal/read-through with the cast. It is traditional for designers to make design presentations at this rehearsal. You will briefly show research and explain the design. Talk in general terms. Note that this is not the time to present every single piece of research you have looked at.
  29. Select practical lighting fixtures for the set and get them to the master electrician as soon as possible so that they can be repaired or rewired if necessary.
  30. Create paint elevations in ½” or 1” scale. These need to be done and approved by your mentor and the director at least two full days before any paint calls so materials can be purchased as necessary and the paint charge can schedule calls.
  31. Schedule a meeting with the other designers to discuss and look at each other’s color palettes.
  32. Attend a run through (usually this will be a scheduled Designer Run-Through) to watch for potential difficulties or problems.
  33. Visit the scene shop daily to answer questions the technical director or assistant technical director may have. If you see anything that needs to be altered discuss that with the technical director and they will discuss it with the shop staff. You must also check with the charge artist daily to be sure there are questions are answered and that processes are proceeding in the right direction.
  34. Attend ALL tech and dress rehearsals.
  35. During tech rehearsals take construction, paint, prop, and dressing notes. Notes should be discussed each night during the post rehearsal tech meeting. Notes are to be revamped daily. Stop by the scene shop early in the next work call and answer any questions that may have come up.
  36. Attend photo call to get photographs of your design. Submit to the stage management team a very short list of specific full stage shots you would like from the professional photographer. The total number of set-ups that the photographer can take is very limited so it would be best if your list is in order of preference. You should also take your own photographs.

Online application for this position.