*Note: To view any of the scenography models in full screen: click on MORE in the top navigation panel of each model and then click on VIEW IN SKETCHFAB. This will allow you to orbit in the first person (click on the little icon that looks like an eye) and zoom in to the model.

Set Design 1

This post introduces the 3D model of the stage design and provides contextual information on the selection of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars as the source material for the visualisation.

Background

While discussing the scope of modelling for the Queen’s Theatre project, we decided that incorporating a visualisation related to the scenography of the Queen’s was important to the documentation of its theatrical history. We found a handful of photo collections from Irish Photo Archive of productions held in the Queen’s between 1951 and 1966 (link to Resources). However, although the photos are an incredibly useful addition to our collection of research on the Queen’s, many of these photos are closeups of the actors and do not include much of the background set design. Aside from these photographs, we found little to no visual evidence or examples of how the Abbey Company might have dressed the Queen’s Theatre stage during different productions.

Because of this lack of available resources, we decided not to attempt a model that represented a specific production held at the Queen’s Theatre as there was greater risk of misleading viewers into seeing this visualisation as fully historically accurate. Instead, we decided to select one of the plays that the Queen’s produced between our time range of 1951 and 1966 and model the components of the set design as specified in the stage directions. Therefore, the set visualisations are the most interpretive of this project’s modelling elements, but this strategy minimises the chance that viewers will mistake the visualisation as a “reconstruction” of a past production. In a later post, we describe the visual techniques utilised to remind the viewer of this interpretive element to the visualisation.

Why did we want to use a specific play?

We were motivated to use a specific play as opposed to a generic set or a blank stage for a number of reasons:

  • Reflect the artistic manifesto  of the Abbey Theatre
  • Give a sense of the historical context of the project and the work the Abbey Company undertook while in the Queen’s
  • Make the stage visualisation more immersive to engage the viewer
  • Reinforce the model of the stage as a representation of a theatrical space

Research and Planning

Preparing the research for the set design visualisation required the following steps:

  • Finding out the different plays that the Abbey performed at the Queen’s (i.e., between 1951-1966)
  • Choosing a play and then a specific scene to visualise
  • Finding out who was in charge of set design while the specific play was at the Queen’s
  • Obtaining a copy of the play
  • Reading through and getting a sense of the scene
  • Compiling additional visual references as guides for modelling pieces of the set

As stated in a previous paradata post, Holly created the 3D models for the set design. She did not have previous experience modelling, so she watched the “Getting Started with SketchUp” tutorials in order to familiarise herself with modelling in SketchUp. She also consulted other tutorial videos on YouTube for modelling specific pieces of furniture.

Why did we chose the play that we did?

Holly considered several different plays, including scenography from pantomime. After consulting with the team, she ultimately decided on the Sean O’Casey play The Plough and the Stars for the following reasons:

  • The play’s distinct sets: each act takes place in a different location which means clear instructions on how to set each scene
  • Its relationship to the Abbey: the play was produced by the Abbey Company both in the Abbey before 1951 and later in the Queen’s
  • Iconic scenes with dynamic sets: those familiar with the play would recognise it, and those unfamiliar would be intrigued by the unusual set details (e.g. the coffin)

Although Holly did not use photos from specific productions as visual references for the modelling, it is worth noting that the Irish Photo Archive includes a collection of 11 photos from a 1955 production of The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey while it occupied the Queen’s Theatre.

Issues of copyright

After some initial discussion following the selection of The Plough and the Stars, the issue of copyright infringement was brought up. Although we were aware that staging such a play without paying for the rights would be copyright infringement, there was little initial consensus as to whether creating a digital visualisation of a particular scene in the play—drawing inspirations from a number of stage productions and versions of the printed play—would constitute copyright infringement.

Ultimately, it was decided that as long as the images from the chosen publication of the play were credited but not uploaded, there would be no copyright violation. The set design diagrams and lists of props from Holly’s reference copy of the Plough and the Stars did influence the stage setting. However, the work was guided more by the general stage directions contained within the play, which is constant across publications.

Detailed Paradata

Detailed explanations of the modelling process for the set designs are provided in the following pages:

References

O’Casey, Sean. The Plough and the Stars. Samuel French LTD, 1932. Print.