Design is not an add on...

Nerissa Cargill Thompson, 2 October 2012

called by: Nerissa Cargill Thompson

attended by: Graham Phillips, Jim Hendley, Austin Hewitt, Phil Jones and Andrew Ness.

I called this session because I feel design is often thought of as an extra, a luxury and not an integral part of the creative process. I felt the need to remind people that designers need to be part of the creative conversation throughout any process and we have a lot to give. This is what came back…

>Surely design is separate as in most venue based work the decisions if not the set itself are made before rehearsals begin. This should not stop the dialogue between the designer/director/actors/lighting/choreographer etc. Sometimes the performance seems like the add on as not engaged with the design in the process. This doesn't necessarily mean the actual pices. Just the concept and knowledge of what will happen/exist.

>Design courses encourage students to think as artists/creatives. We are trained in use of space, history of theatre, performance styles, visual & theatrical language…. in other words creative thought not just technical skills, make use of our skills and knowledge. Frustration at not being included in the creative conversations. Asked to provide solutions or specific product late in process rather than being part of the journey.

>Interest in design led performances.

>Need for change in attitude/culture in the process of creating theatre. Designers need to shout more about what they can bring.

>Bringing designer in at R&D stage not only feeds the process and influence what is created but also can help make more informed next stage funding bids and money spent better.

>Separation of the scenic workshops to offsite companies means this has increased the gap. Good to hear new Everyman will have onsite workshop space.

>Liverpool has a strong wordy history of poetry & plays. Feels harder here because of this but also spurs the need/want to create design led work.

>Importance of design/designers needs to be taught in drama schools. Really respect and understanding of all possible members of a team in the creation of performance needs to be taught. Finding own set & costumes in college and early career/fringe work can actually lead to less understanding and respect of what a designer can bring.

Lots of actors & writers setting up own companies to create work for themselves.

>Directors with low/no budget don't feel need for a designer/ design is a luxury. Actually even just a conversation with a designer can help you spend that small amount of money more effectively. Designers love to talk design and be challenged creatively. Buy us coffee & cake & pick our brains even if you can't afford to go whole hog.

>Involving designers early on can make sure props/set/costumes used to full potential. so less money wasted. Designers need to listen too.

>Design is a language. We need more multi-lingists in all areas of theatre.

Key outcomes/repeating themes…

*Keep design in mind throughout the process*

*It's all a conversation/dialogue.*

*None of it should be an add on.*

After the conversation came to a close, I joined the end of the discussion about relationships between directors and movement directors. This had been what inspired me to ask this question, a similar feeling of that desire to be seen as part of the essential team and not an afterthought or an add on.


rehearsal, Theatre, Rehearsal, Collaboration, budgets, design, education, costume, Funding, directors, funding, Education, collaboration, theatre