Set Design for Performance tutor, Gary Thorne studied Fine Art at Byam Shaw, theatre design with Motley and completed an MA in Public Art with UEL. He has worked as a freelance set and costume designer for over twenty years, is the author of ‘Stage Design: A Practical Guide’, ‘Designing Stage Costumes: A Practical Guide’, and ‘Technical Drawing for Stage Design’, and is currently Head of Design at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art). We chat to Gary about his Short Course, Set Design for Performance, breaking into the industry and how to stay inspired.
Who is your course targeted at and what should students expect to leave with by the end of their course?
This course encourages each learner to transfer personal skill to the interpretation of a given text for performance. Personal interpretation is supported by previous experience and the way one perceives the world. Studio work calls for evidence of analysis, contextualisation and research, exploration in 2D and 3D. Scale modelling promotes design ideas taking shape, and in time individuals find meaning, reasoning, and a rationale, where design serves a purpose. The course end portfolio reflects invested interest in the process of anticipating a performance. Student prior experiences need not be theatre related. The play text will inspire and provoke creativity, the class structure keeps the learner working to meet production demands, and through hands-on exploration and problem solving the learner finds their creative expression.
How did you become a Set Designer and what is your advice for anyone wanting a career in Set Design?
After 5 years of passionate interest in fine art, I chanced upon the Motley Theatre Design Course, which was a one year postgraduate standard course, run by Motley designers Percy Harris and Elizabeth Montgomery. The shift from solo studio work to collaboration was a brilliant move, in that sharing creative ideas meant broader horizons for me. I soon discovered stage designers have varied educational experiences, and this directly affected their sensibilities. And in watching performance you soon appreciate the expression and diversity which individuals bring to their creative team. The short courses have proved highly supportive to those building a design portfolio for either undergraduate or MA course entry. Yet individuals also use the structured processing, as taught, to begin designing for the fringe and within short films. Helping out at any level backstage is important, as the experience provides insight to the roles and responsibilities, to how people communicate, and to what working to a deadline is really like.
Where do you get the inspiration from and how do you stay inspired?
The playwright is of great inspiration. When characters are analysed through the language they chose within situations they find themselves in, great truths can be revealed. Character relationships are fascinating, as they provoke, challenge, entertain, alienate, bring tears and laughter. Rereading the play text, across pre-production, is an endless search to construct meaning. And when the actors arrive further depths are explored and discovered. Every play is a whole new world for the designer to comprehend, and each new creative team you find yourself in delivers up new exciting challenges. Really everything is a problem from the start; the play because its only words on a page, the team because you have no common language yet, the budget of course, the venue, the time frame to produce it, and of course the audience is hard to anticipate. Yet if you like problem solving, and love story telling, then you could be very inspired
The next Set Design for Performance course starts on 20 April 2016 with further dates throughout the year