A Basic History of Set Construction and Safety Guidelines


Students will gain an understanding of the evolution of theatre scenery and construction. They will become familiar with the safety guidelines inherent and necessary in set construction.



Materials Needed

Get any video clips/pictures that might be used. Remind students to bring journal.



Lesson Directions

Anticipatory Set/Hook
What are some memorable sets you have seen? What are some cool things you have seen happen in plays with the set? Show video clip if possible
Ideas- Les Miserables-rotating from a street scene to a barricade
Into the Woods-a growing bean stock
Phantom of the Opera-The crashing chandelier
Sets are pretty important for creating the environment of a play.




INSTRUCTION: A quick overview of the evolution of theatre scenery and construction
1. Greek amphitheatres and the skene-a “tent” that made the backdrop and changing area for actors, eventually became made of wood
2. Medieval pageant wagons- Most recognized form was from the York cycle. They were pulled through the streets by guild members, but were quite elaborate-including a rope and pulley platform for Christ’s ascension, and smoking trap doors for the jaws of hell.
3. French Perspective Painting-Renaissance development, could create the illusion of depth.
4. Melodrama sets-they would create floating ice chunks on stage, burning buildings, etc. Pretty crazy stuff
5. Modern- we can do pretty much anything, take into consideration aforementioned examples.


MODELING: Show some pictures, videoclips of these set styles.


CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING: So, what are the benefits of some of these historical types of sets, what are the downfalls? Let’s look at our theatre space and see how these things might work. Tour space, bring journals.


TRANSITION: Before we can have any type of set, we have to build it, and before we do that we have to understand the safety guidelines involved.


INSTRUCTION: Safety Guidelines in set construction.
1. if in doubt-don’t do it!
2. no horseplay!
3. follow instructions on product
4. keep tidy-allow time for clean up
5. heights-be secure, don’t leave things that might fall at high heights
6. lifting-be careful not to strain your back, lift with your legs
7. first aid stuff location, know where it is.
8. tool safety-if you don’t know how to use it, don’t use it!
9. personal protection (goggles, dust masks, clothing, ventilation, gloves)


CLOSURE and ASSESSMENT: a quick oral quiz on safety guidelines, and a reminder that they will be quizzed. If time permits, allow them to put together quick skits on what might happen in safety guidelines aren’t followed.




Students can be assessed through participation in class discussion and note-taking in a theatre journal.