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Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!

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These books take a deep dive into what the craft is all about, how to get started, and even how to design on a budget!

Looking for something new to read while staying inside, but still need your Broadway fix? We've rounded up 10 of our favorite books on set design!

These books, many of which were written by current or former set designers, take a deep dive into what the art is all about, how to get started, what research goes into the craft, and even how to design on a budget!

Not a set designer? Check out our list of 10 books on acting here, playwriting here, directing here, producing here, and stage managing here!


Set Design and Prop Making in Theater

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Bethany Bryan

The theater needs people who are good with their hands. Creative and handy people make, paint, and maintain the sets and props that bring a show to life. Learn what is required to get a set ready for opening night, and how job skills developed on the stage can translate into a career that is always in high demand.

Purchase on Amazon here.


Creative and Successful Set Designs: How to Make Imaginative Stage Sets with Limited Resources

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Todd Muffatti

Creative and Successful Set Designs discusses the spatial relationship of the auditorium and stage, the factors to be considered when choosing a script, and the research necessary to arrive at a proper visual metaphor for a production. Muffatti covers many design style options and creative approaches that don't require extensive building expertise, large amounts of time, or great expense. He shows how a small stock of basic scenery can be used to creatively serve multiple set designs with minimal additions. Muffatti outlines the skills involved in the design process from sketching and drafting, to set dressing and model building and provides illustrations to offer further guidance.

About the Author: Todd Muffatti has designed sets for productions in theatre and film across the country. He is also an artist and has created exhibitions. View his full resume on his website here.

Purchase on Amazon here.


The Handbook of Set Design

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Colin Winslow

The Handbook of Set Design is a comprehensive guide to designing scenery of all kinds for a wide variety of stages, large and small. From concept to final dress rehearsal and performance, it takes you through the practical process of turning initial ideas and sketches into final sets that enhance the audience's understanding of the play as well as providing a memorable experience in their own right. Many photographs of stage sets designed by the author are included, together with explanatory illustrations, stage plans, technical drawings, models, and color renderings for a wide range of productions.

About the Author: Colin Winslow is a stage designer, lecturer and teacher with many years of international professional experience. His work has been wide ranging from Shakespeare in Flemish to Ibsen in the Prairies; from ballet in London UK to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Washington DC. He has been Head of Design for several theatres including The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh; the Redgrave Theatre in Farnham, England; The Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, and 'Ensemble' in Amsterdam, Holland. He has taught stage design in many colleges and universities in the UK, and currently teaches at the University of Alberta in Canada. He is a Life Honorary Member of the Society of British Theatre Designers.

Purchase on Amazon here.


Fundamentals of Theatrical Design

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Karen Brewster and Melissa Shafer

Veteran theater designers Karen Brewster and Melissa Shafer have consulted with a broad range of seasoned theater industry professionals to provide an exhaustive guide full of sound advice and insight. With clear examples and hands-on exercises, Fundamentals of Theatrical Design illustrates the way in which the three major areas of theatrical design-scenery, costumes, and lighting-are intrinsically linked.

About the Authors: Karen Brewster is an associate professor of theater at East Tennessee State University (ETSU). She lives in Johnson City, Tennessee. Melissa Shafer is a scenic and lighting designer and technical director at East Tennessee State University. She lives in Johnson City, Tennessee.

Purchase on Amazon here.


Unmasking Theatre Design: A Designer's Guide to Finding Inspiration and Cultivating Creativity

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Lynne Porter

Every great design has its beginnings in a great idea, whether your medium of choice is scenery, costume, lighting, sound, or projections. Unmasking Theatre Design shows you how to cultivate creative thinking skills through every step of theatre design - from the first play reading to the finished design presentation. This book reveals how creative designers think in order to create unique and appropriate works for individual productions, and will teach you how to comprehend the nature of the design task at hand, gather inspiration, generate potential ideas for a new design, and develop a finished look through renderings and models. The exercises presented in this book demystify the design process by providing you with specific actions that will help you get on track toward fully-formed designs. Revealing the inner workings of the design process, both theoretically and practically, Unmasking Theatre Design will jumpstart the creative processes of designers at all levels, from student to professionals, as you construct new production designs.

About the Author: Lynne Porter is Resident Designer and Director of the Theatre Program at Fairfield University, where she has been teaching, administrating, and making theatre since 1995.She is also the Academic Director of Creative Life Residential College, a sophomore experience focused on inspiring the creative impulse. She regularly designs for the Bloomsburg Theatre Ensemble, where she is an Affiliated Artist of the Ensemble. She also designs with the Guerrilla Shakespeare Project in New York and various theatres from Maine to Georgia. Lynne is an associate member of the Shakespeare Theatre Association of America and a member of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology, as well as the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. She holds an MFA in scenic design from Indiana University.

Purchase on Amazon here.


Scene Design and Stage Lighting

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by R. Craig Wolf and Dick Block

Completely current, the exciting new tenth edition has two new chapters on digital integration in scene design and lighting design (Chapters 12 and 13), a new chapter on getting work in the profession (Chapter 28), and mirrors the best of real-world practices. Vibrant color production photographs support the text and spotlight examples of contemporary work. The book retains its strong emphasis on modern technology, with many changes in the lighting design and sound design chapters, reflecting the latest practices. The text also includes an expanded section on television design, as well as an emphasis on health and safety issues. The authors emphasize collaboration in all sections of the text, and they provide insight via interviews with professional lighting and scenery designers in two features: "Working Professionals" and "Designers at Work."

About the Authors: R. Craig Wolf is a professional lighting designer as well as an educator. Mr. Wolf's designs have been seen nationwide, including productions for San Diego's Old Globe Theatre, San Diego Repertory Theatre, Dance Theatre Workshop in New York, Virginia Shakespeare, Richmond Ballet Company, Theatre Artaud in San Francisco, and Japan America Center and Odyssey Theatre Ensemble of Los Angeles. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) and is vice chair of their Publications Committee and, for five years, he was lighting commissioner. He became a lighting associate member of the United Scenic Artists Design Union in 1977. Mr. Wolf has taught at the Universities of Michigan and Virginia and is currently professor of design, MFA graduate adviser, and head of the design program in the School of Theatre, Television, and Film at San Diego State University.

Dick Block has worked as a freelance scene designer and a scenic artist for more than 25 years. He has designed for AMAS, Columbia Artists, and TheatreWorks USA, all in New York, and for the Virginia Stage Company, the Weston Playhouse (Vermont), and the Human Race (Ohio). Additional regional credits include work at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, The American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Center Stage in Baltimore, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, as well as the Pittsburgh Playhouse and the Pittsburgh Public Theatre. Block is also active with United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT), having served as scene design co-commissioner and on the board of directors, and with the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival both regionally and nationally, having served as the first national design chair. He is the recipient of the Kennedy Center Medallion for Distinguished Service. Block received his MFA from Northwestern University. After teaching at the University of Michigan and Cornell, he is currently the associate head of the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon.

Purchase on Amazon here.


Scene Design: A Guide to the Stage

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Henning Nelms

This book contains an excellent discussion of scenery, sets, models, the principles of design, painting scenery, and arena design. Throughout this discussion, the author gives many tips that will save you much wasted materials and hours of work; working out sightlines before you design the set, choosing among different kinds of sets, constructing flats, making a truly realistic model, constructing a convertible set, working with a color chart and tone solid, spatter painting, adding touches, and much more. When technical terms are used, all are defined with extreme clarity: raked set, cyclorama, set axes, flats, flippers, masking pieces, etc. The author's 110 drawings and diagrams are especially helpful floor plans of sets, audience views, reverse views, different scene designs on the same basic set, and similar material.

About the Author: Henning Nelms was a lawyer, theatrical director, amateur magician and novelist, was the author of the conjuring books Applause and How to Get It and Magic and Showmanship: a Handbook for Conjurers (1969).

Nelms also wrote two mystery novels under the pen name Hake Talbot: The Hangman's Handyman (1942) and Rim of the Pit (1944). The latter is considered a classic of the "locked room" mystery genre.

He wrote the play Only an Orphan Girl (1944), and the nonfiction books Lighting the Amateur Stage (1931), Building an Amateur Audience (1936), A Primer of Stagecraft (1941), Play Production (1950), and Thinking with a Pencil (1964).

Purchase on Amazon here.


The Handbook of Model-Making for Set Designers

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Colin Winslow

From the most basic cutting and assembling methods to advanced painting, texturing, and finishing techniques, this invaluable guide covers every aspect of producing models for stage sets. Useful hints on producing a range of different models-including buildings and structures, organic elements such as trees and bushes, and furniture-are provided along with helpful illustrated step-by-step instructions. A number of modern computer-based design techniques are also included and accompanied by tips on using these techniques in combination with more traditional procedures to enhance finished products.

About the Author: Colin Winslow is a stage designer, lecturer and teacher with many years of international professional experience. His work has been wide ranging from Shakespeare in Flemish to Ibsen in the Prairies; from ballet in London UK to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in Washington DC. He has been Head of Design for several theatres including The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh; the Redgrave Theatre in Farnham, England; The Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg, and 'Ensemble' in Amsterdam, Holland. He has taught stage design in many colleges and universities in the UK, and currently teaches at the University of Alberta in Canada. He is a Life Honorary Member of the Society of British Theatre Designers.

Purchase on Amazon here.


American Set Design

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Arnold Aronson

This book examines the stage sets by eleven top U.S. designers and discusses the background of each artist.

It includes: John Lee Beatty, John Conklin, Karl Eigsti, Ralph Funicello, Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, Eugene Lee, Ming Cho Lee, Santo Loquasto, David Mitchell, Douglas Schmidt and Robert Wagner.

About the Author: Arnold Aronson is Professor of Theatre in the MFA Theatre Program at the Columbia University School of the Arts in New York City where he has taught since 1991. He served as Chair of the program from 1991-98 and 2008-2012. He also co-created and teaches in the Theatre PhD Program. Prior to Columbia he taught at the University of Virginia, Cornell University, University of Michigan, and the City University of New York. He has a BA from Rutgers University and MA/PhD from New York University.

Purchase on Amazon here.


The Performing Set: The Broadway Designs of William and Jean Eckart

Broadway Books: 10 Books on Set Design to Read While Staying Inside!by Andrew B. Harris

The large-scale Broadway musical is one of America's great contributions to world theatre. Bill and Jean Eckart were stage designers and producers at the peak of the musical, and their designs revolutionized Broadway productions. At a time when sets were meant to remain simply backdrops that established time and place but not much else, an Eckart set became part of the performance on stage, equal at times to an actor. Anyone who has seen Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables has seen the innovations that the Eckarts brought to the large Broadway-style musical production. They were best known for their designs for Damn Yankees (1955); Once Upon a Mattress (1959), in which Carol Burnett made her Broadway debut; and Mame (1966) with Angela Lansbury.

About the Author: Andrew B. Harris is the author of the award-winning Broadway Theatre and a stage director, playwright, and producer. He has chaired theatre departments at Columbia University, Texas Christian University, and Southern Methodist University, where he met William and Jean Eckart. He lives in McKinney, Texas.

Purchase on Amazon here.


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