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Complete Class Project: Complete Show Design

The next exercise is a large-scale culminating project for the whole class.

Students will form small groups and work together to create design concepts for a play in six areas of technical theater: sound design, lighting design, set design, costumes, props, and hair/makeup. Each group is responsible for completing four components:

  • an inspiration component
  • a research component
  • a practical component
  • an analysis component

This is a great way for students to demonstrate what they have learned throughout the semester or challenge themselves to explore a new technical area. Students will gain a broader appreciation of all the factors that go into creating a cohesive theatrical design.

Before you start: Don’t worry if you are not a technical expert! Check out the Technical Theater section of the Theatrefolk blog for loads of technical advice. Three good articles to start with are Technical exercises for the non-technical teacher, Tips for success when technology isn’t your forteand Tips for budding lighting designers.


1. Select a piece for the whole class to design.

2. Divide the students into six groups. Assign each group one of the following areas of technical theater: sound design, lighting design, set design, costumes, props, and hair/makeup.

3. In this exercise, you (the teacher) will act as the director of the selected show and share your overall vision/concept with your design teams (your students). E.g, Romeo & Juliet in the sea Alice in Wonderland in outer space, a steampunk Beauty and the beastor a film noir Antigone. Feel free to provide as much detail as you like.

If you want to give students more artistic freedom, try one of the following options:

Option B: Ask each group to present a vision/concept (eg Romeo & Juliet in the jungle, the Wild West Romeo & Julietor Romeo & Juliet in the year 3000) and allows the class to vote for one.

Option C: Ditch the director’s idea and ask each group to come up with their own original design concept for the selected piece without consulting other groups.

4. Once the design concept is established, each group must complete their design projects, which will consist of the following four parts:

A) Inspiration: An inspiration collage or moodboard with colors, textures, sketches, photos or cutouts that illustrate the concept. (Minimum size: 12 inches by 12 inches)

b) Research: A written research component (or audio/video recording if that works better for your students) on an aspect of the concept. For example, if the concept is “in the jungle”, what specific jungle is the group focusing on? What plants and animals are native to the area? Are there movies, television programs or documentaries out there? Are there any major current events or important historical events that took place there? Adapt the questions according to the selected design concept. (minimum length: 1 page)

c) Practically: A practical sample item that is relevant to the technical design area, such as a sound playlist, a lighting plot and gel sample display, or a found lighting demonstration (live or filmed), a set of scale models, an original costume design or a constructed costume; a built prop, an original hair/make-up design, a designed wig or a make-up demonstration (live or photographed). Students can also have their own suggestions.

d) Analyze: A written (or audio/video) component that describes how and why the group made the design choices they did. (minimum length: 1 page)

5. Have students share their projects with the rest of the class, either as group presentations or as a class fair style presentation.

6. Discuss how each group approached their design work. Do the different theater areas work together as a whole? Why or why not? Do they support the director’s overall vision? What could be adjusted to work better together?

7. Each student will complete and submit an individual reflection (found below).

Click here for a free reflection and column.

Kerry Hishon is a director, actor, writer and stage fighter from London, Ontario, Canada. She blogs at www.kerryhishon.com.

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