My How Time Flies
Scene Design Commission
Funny how long things can take to finish. When I first got the idea to gather and edit a collection of projects for teaching scene design back in 1992, I thought I'd knock it right out. I remember talking to Rich Dunham about the lighting project compendium he had put together and was amazed when he said it takes years to do. "Sure," I thought. "One, maybe two years… three tops." Well, that was 14 years ago and the collection is finally about to be published.
Inspiration for the book first struck me while attending an Association of Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) conference in the early 1990s. I remember sharing, in a casual conversation, my frustrations about how the traditional scene design projects (ground plans and renderings for box sets) weren't very inspiring for the non-theatre majors I was teaching at the time.
Turns out I wasn't alone, and I returned to my classroom with several very creative alternative projects. The following year, I chaired a panel at an ATHE conference in Atlanta during which we shared more projects and class exercises. The session generated a lot of excitement, and after that, I decided to collect and edit a book of scene design projects from teachers around the country. When someone suggested publishing the compendium through USITT, the pieces began to fall into place.
Initially I requested submissions from other design educators via mass mailings, fliers distributed at conferences, phone calls, and inserts in the Sightlines newsletter. Because of the cost of postage and long-distance phone rates, it was a fairly expensive and time-consuming process in the mid-90s. I had a reasonable collection after a few years which I began editing. And then things got really busy at Le Moyne College where I work. We built a new performing arts center, and, when the building was finished, we added a new theatre major program.
Fortunately, when I returned to editing the compendium, e-mail had become the standard mode of communication among academics so working with the advisory editors at USITT, Richard Dunham and Robert L. Smith, became much easier and faster. When they suggested that the size and scope of the publication be expanded to include projects in drafting, color, and scene painting, it was relatively easy to request and receive additional submissions.
Now that the book has been printed, taking its place on the shelf next to the lighting and costume compendiums, I want to thank everyone who contributed projects for their patience and understanding. I received a lot of help and assistance along the way from David Dwyer, Elbin Cleveland, Mr. Dunham, Mr. Smith, and Barbara Lucas. It took a while to finish, but I hope, when people start using them in classes, you'll agree this collection of scene design projects was well worth the wait.
Karel Blakeley is Director of Theatre Arts and resident designer at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. His recently-completed Compendium is now available through the USITT bookstore, or by clicking here.