Behind every intricate costume, dramatic lighting, epic soundscape and intricate set on any theatrical production is a designer. Their job is to create a convincing world with a unique style and personality.
To do this, they not only have to be well trained artistically — drawing, painting, drafting, 3D CAD, to name a few — but they have to understand the social, political, economic and visual world of the entire play.
“It’s our job to help bring the director’s artistic vision to life, and manifest it in the onstage world of the play,” says Bailey Ferchoff, a 2nd-year BFA Theatre Design student. “By taking the inspiration of the director and combining it with our knowledge of the technical and creative sides of theatre, we are able to mould and create immersive and engaging worlds for the audience to explore.”
To get a taste of just how broad a skill set a theatre designer must have, one only has to come visit the annual Theatre Design Portfolio Show, featuring the work of the University of Alberta BFA and MFA Theatre Design students.
Recently, the 2017 Theatre Design Portfolio Show took over Second Playing Space at the Timms Centre for the Arts with an amazing exhibition of costumes, miniature set models, sketches, props, artwork and more, giving visitors a glimpse of what goes into creating what audiences see on stage.
“Theatre art is quite different from other fine art forms,” explains Caro Vanrensberg, a 3rd-year student in the BFA Theatre Design program. “It’s a combination of architecture, drawing and painting, clothing and garment construction, lighting and technical theatre, scenic art and construction. There’s nothing quite like it.”
Ferchoff adds: “It’s a very interesting and varied show. You’ll see everything from costumes to sets, to life drawings, to our personal work. It’s incredibly interesting to see the different styles and techniques that each of the students possesses.”
Vanrensberg sees the Portfolio Show as an opportunity for people to see how theatre artists take a story or a concept and transform it into something bright and living, and so personal to them. “I think people might be surprised by what they see.”
In addition to her design studies, Vanrensberg is also the President of the Student Scenographers Association, the official group of designers within the Faculty of Arts. A passionate spokesperson for the program, she talks about how the students do more than just refine their art and design skills, but also learn the professional and communication skills necessary for the business.
“You have to learn what it takes for a production to succeed, and over time you figure out your own style and what works for you,” she says. “We take technical and directorial classes, history and theory of drama classes, and then our core of design courses to round out our understanding of how to produce a show.”
The 2017 Theatre Designers Portfolio Show ran April 3-7, 2017, in Second Playing Space, Timms Centre for the Arts. More photos of the 2017 Portfolio Show can be seen online.
The 2017 Theatre Designers Portfolio Show featured work from the following students:
1st Year BFA Design:
2nd Year BFA Design:
3rd Year BFA Design:
4th Year BFA Design:
Qualifying year pre-MFA Design:
1st Year MFA Design:
2nd Year MFA Design:
3rd Year BFA Technical Theatre:
4th Year BFA Technical Theatre:
For more information about the BFA and MFA Theatre Design programs, visit the Department of Drama website.