!nsp!re – How To Talk Design by Sean O’Skea

Just a quick post today to share a few brief tips.

I read an article recently in Dramatics Magazine. Written by Sean O’Skea, “How To Talk Design” is a helpful guide to young designers navigating their first production experiences. It also functions as a pretty good reminder to seasoned pros as well.

While it’s clear that his advice is aimed at theatrical designers, anyone in an artist/client relationship can relate to these questions, which focus on getting concrete information out of a director (which, sometimes, is no mean feat…).

A few of my favorites are:

“Why is the director taking on the show?” This one can be important because we all do projects for different reasons. Understanding why the director is participating can give you insight into what they are looking for.

“What does the director think the play is about?” I think “Sweeney Todd” is about how revenge destroys us from the inside. Others think it’s about British societal castes. Still others think it’s a charming little tale about embracing opportunity. The point is – everyone has different opinions about what the play is about; but only one really matters.

“What is the director’s vision for the ‘world’ of the play?” If the director says he’s doing a traditional staging of “Hello, Dolly”, you begin to form certain images in your head. If the they say they’re doing “Hello, Dolly” as imagined by Tim Burton, you get a very different set of mental images.

Perhaps his best statement is “Communicate artfully, early, and often”.

Communicating artfully is something with which I believe we all struggle. To state your artistic intent clearly and with purpose in a way that allows people to understand what you see in your head is something that must be worked on continuously. It first requires that you know what you want to see on the stage. That is informed by the project, the research, and a myriad of other influences; all combining to create that vision. But as long as the vision stays stuck in your head, it’s virtually useless. It’s YOUR responsibility to get it out of your head through drawings, words, and actions. Communicate artfully!

You can read Sean’s full article here (on page 31).

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