Set Designer

The Set Designer:

  • works with the Director to develop ideas and finalise the Set before rehearsals begin (usually 3 months prior to performance), liaising with the Lighting Designer and Stage Manager to ensure set requirements are clear and achievable.
  • produces set plan and working drawings, plus a visual and possibly a model.
  • is aware of approximate costs involved for purchasing of specialist items not held in Company Store.
  • nearer the performance dates, the Set Designer will usually work with the Stage Manager, painters and builders to help realise the design.

Specific Duties often include:

  • Read the script thoroughly making notes of scene changes and basic set requirements including entrances and exits, furniture etc
  • Well before rehearsals begin, meet with the Director to discuss the set, how it will look, key dramatic moments etc.  Directors usually have a good idea of how they want it to look or what they want to achieve.  Compromises might have to be made here!
  • Draw up a rough plan and visual.  Then meet with Director, Stage Manager, and Lighting Designer to discuss the ‘movement’ of the play, scene by scene. Finalising details.  Ensure that the set is realistically achievable in terms of cost, restrictions of Playhouse stage, and the time available to build and paint it.
  • Draw up a working Set Plan to scale, and also working drawings of any items needing to be specially built (eg. ‘trucks’, windows, balconies).  Include a visual.  Copies of these can be given to the Director, SM & Lighting Designer.  You can make a set model - this is especially useful if you have a complicated set.  The Director and cast can then refer to it in rehearsals, and it will give the set-builders a good idea of what they are trying to achieve.
  • In the early stages of rehearsals, there will be a backstage meeting of heads of backstage departments to discuss all aspects of the production eg. Props and Wardrobe.
  • There will also be a Budget Meeting set up with the Department Heads and Committee reps (usually the Treasurer and Chair) to agree costs and spending.
  • Attend a few rehearsals in order to ensure that ‘movement’ adheres to agreed plan.  Unforeseen problems may be highlighted during rehearsals, which might necessitate some alterations to the staging.  A certain flexibility may be required!
  • Make sure you have arranged for a couple of people to help you with the Set Painting when you go into workshop.
  • Two/three weeks before the opening night, you get together with Stage Manager/Set Builder to have a good look at what is available in the Store and organise purchase of paints etc.
  • Workshop - this is the exciting bit when it all comes together!  You have two to three weeks of concentrated work, which culminates in the completed set ready for the First Night.

This is a very creative area in which to work: the transformation of the stage, the impact it can have on the audience, the ‘buzz’ that it gives the cast when they finally get to use it, the character it takes on when lit, is what makes set-design so satisfying and rewarding.


The set designer will usually need two or three people to assist with painting and building specialist set peices during the two weeks in the workshop prior to performance date.