Role of the Scenographer

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Q//Write a, detailed, illustrated, analytical case study that explores the role of the scenographer and the scenographic outcome in a live production or productions you have personally seen. Particular attention should be paid to the overall scenic approach, the use of lighting, audio, visual effects, costumes, scene changes, and the overall interpretation of the narrative.

This essay is going to act as a case study of live productions which I have personally seen, and drawing from other examples to be able to communicate the role of the scenographer and the product. It will highlight the outcomes of audio-visual effects, lighting, costume design, scene changes and the understanding of the storyline. Scenography, as a term itself may be found to have many definitions from various books and scenographers themselves. One such definition, as stated by scenographer, Pamela Howard, in her book ‘What is Scenography?’, “Scenography is the joint statement of the director and the visual artist of their view of the play, opera or dance that is being presented to the audience as a united piece of work." " Josef Svoboda, who is also a very renowned scenographer and sometimes deemed as the father of scenography ( – Accessed on 01/05/10) also mentioned in Pamela Howard (2002), it is ‘The interplay of space, time, movement and light on stage’. I find that, through my readings of the different definitions, that it is hard to have one fixed definition for the term scenography. I feel that, it is the visible entirety on a stage; from the set, costume, lighting (and sound which is audible) that adds to the overall production or story. John Russell Brown (1997) mentions that “in well equipped modern theatres, stage design or scenography has become a huge task of planning, building and coordination.” The role of the scenographer is quite integral to a production. Whilst the scenography of a production can be taken care of by one person, according to John Russell Brown, most productions would have four designers for the set, costumes, lights and sound. They may have assistants as well. These designers work in unison with the director, even during the production. In some cases, more so in smaller productions one person undertakes all these tasks. However, it may be terribly difficult for one person to coordinate all these tasks. This may differ from production to production and more so from country to country. As indicated by Howard, “The scenographer visually liberates the text and the story behind it, by creating a world in which the eyes see what the ears do not hear." I have had the opportunity and privilege of seeing a few live productions. I will mainly be exploring the scenography of Disney’s the Lion King musical as it is had a lot to offer with incredible scenic designs, costumes, music, etc. I will also draw from others plays and musicals I have seen such as Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap’, the King and I and Bombay Dreams.

The Lion King musical is a theatrical performance and adaptation of the Disney film. The story is of a young lion prince, Simba. His father and king of the pride, Mufasa has decided that Simba will be next in line to take over the thrown. Meanwhile, Mufasa’s evil brother, Scar is jealous and plots to kill both father and son. He makes Simba, think he is the reason for his father’s death forcing him to flee from the kingdom. Scar sends hyenas after Simba to kill him but they are too lazy and let him go. With the help of the animals that Simba meets in the jungle and his re-encounter with the love of his life, Nala, he is led back home. Eventually he reclaims the kingdom and kills Scar. According to the director, costume designer, mask/co-puppet designer, Julie Taymor, it was a challenge “to deal with a story that is all animals, but is in essence a human story”. She was trying to create costumes in such a way, where the character being played by the...
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