Designing stage decorations can stretch your imagination. A well-dressed stage rewards you with a rich world of your own creation for the actors to inhabit and the audience to enjoy. The task of creating something spectacular and eye-catching out of a bare stage may seem daunting, but setting some parameters and gathering inspiration at the beginning can make the process a joy to tackle. Here, you will find some quick guidelines for choosing stage decorations as well as creative ideas for some of the most popular events.
Set the Parameters
Determine what type of production is being held, who the participants are and who the audience will be. This helps you decide on some limiting factors that will influence your decoration ideas. If you are decorating for a dance show, you will need plenty of open space. If you're designing décor for a children's theatre production, bright and bold patterns and objects are generally well-received. For a wedding, think classy and elegant. No matter what designs you choose, make sure to find out any specific limitations such as fire codes or building rules before proceeding.
Talk with the other members of the production to gain helpful insight to guide your decorating. They may have visual images of the environment they are hoping to achieve, or perhaps they have certain moods they're aiming to evoke. Find online resources or magazines with photos of similar events, gather pictures of items that inspire you and encourage other production members to share their own designs and ideas.
This big day is all about the bride and groom. To keep the focus on the happy couple, you might select several meaningful photographs of their lives, transfer them to black and white at a photo kiosk, place them in inexpensive yet classic frames and display a photo collage of standing frames at various heights. An array of candles placed in groups or set in long rows is a popular choice. Or let nature inspire you—gather stones, flowers and branches to arrange in groups, perhaps even using cut pieces of tree trunks as platforms.
A few bold decorative pieces coupled with open space and dramatic lighting often work best for dance productions. Make sure pieces you choose are sturdy enough to support all the activity that will be happening around and sometimes on top of them. Contact a local college to see if any art students might be willing to display a freestanding 3D art structure. Columns or pedestals typically used in gardens can be an elegant touch. Hang curtains for an attractive backdrop that is less obtrusive to the dance than a standing piece.
Decorating for theatre stages is largely dependent on the requirements of the script, but a few ideas can give you a starting point. Choose a color scheme that is in line with the mood of the piece. Warm reds, yellows and oranges set a lively tone, while blues and purples work well for more dramatic pieces. You can decorate the stage to re-create a setting such as a living room or office, or try using neutral or black pieces that can be moved around and used in scenes interchangeably.
J. Lynn Patten has her bachelor's degree in psychology from Central Michigan University and is working on her master's in drama from Texas Woman's University. She has worked with the young for more than eight years, in educational, social and artistic venues.