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Design in the theatre may branch into various areas of special-
ization, including scenery, costumes, lighting, sound,
The paths leading to a career in theatre design are numerous and varied. They may come
from within the theatre itself or from elsewhere. Many a would-be actor has discovered
more excitement in design; directors with a strong visual sense have sometimes become
designers. Architects, fine artists, and other trained visual artists equipped with the prac -
tical ability to draw and paint and possessing a strong desire to be in the theatre have
forged careers as designers.
A student standing at the threshold of training for a career in design for the theatre
may wonder what the future holds. Never before has theatre training made more sense;
today, people with a solid grasp of theatrical design are being hired and are working
in myriad related industries. The discipline, dedication, organization, and sense of col-
laboration that theatre requires are qualities that easily transfer to any number of fields.
The sudden but transitory flush of excitement involving one’s first experiences in the
theatre should not, however, obscure the need for a long-range artistic commitment to
hard work. Anyone interested in achieving creative and personal fulfillment as a scene,
costume, lighting, sound, or projection designer must first thoroughly understand the
complexity of theatre as an art form.
Theatre is ever evolving, even in definition. During the 20th century it faced sig -
nificant changes in its literary, physical, and theatrical form; these reflect evolution in
the views of society as well as advances in technology. A wide range of influences has
affected theatre. Multiculturalism and globalization have enabled us to understand and
appreciate the lives of those with different backgrounds. The attempt to be inclusive has
allowed the audience to be more directly involved physically and emotionally and us to
consider wholly new theatre forms. Other expectations have also changed, so a much
wider array of venues is now acceptable for performance spaces.
Television and film are one obvious influence, as more and more playscripts are
written as a series of short scenes in numerous locales and more “live theatre”-trained
students are pursuing careers in this arena. Computer and digital technology have made
the most profound impact. This technology has allowed for increased control of complex
physical movement of scenery and light, and revolutionized the way sound is manipu-
lated. In many cases, it has changed the way that designers conceptualize, develop, and
present their work. In addition, newer forms of storytelling, such as webcasts, podcasts,
and YouTube, have increasingly become part of our daily lives. Consider how these have
affected designers and their function in the theatre; theatre design has really become,
more broadly, entertainment design.