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What is Scenography?

Scenography is the art of creating performance environments; it can be composed of sound, light, clothing, performance, structure and space.

In Continental Europe where the term is widely used, the last thirty years have seen scenography move out of academic papers and find a home in the studios of theatre designers and the greenrooms of many theatres. Increasing numbers of theatre designers in the UK are also describing themselves as “Scenographers”.

In the USA however, the term has not been adopted with the same passion, perhaps due to fundamental differences in the way theatre in the USA is produced. On her website www.stephstuff.com, Stephanie A. Schoelzel (Scenographer and Costume Designer) describes heated debates over the use of the term and the unique differences between USA and European theatre.

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Scenographer

Interestingly Stephanie describes herself as both a Scenographer and Costume Designer – in Europe the term “Scenographer” would perhaps suffice as most in the industry would assume that a scenographer would have a good level of expertise in not only costume design but its construction too. In the UK, an undergraduate student on a theatre design course would not survive for long without designing costumes, researching costume history and their construction, and more often than not getting to grips with a sewing machine. Then of course there is lighting, scenic painting and construction, props making, sound effects, puppet making and a whole universe of technical know-how. In most schools there are also complimentary courses in fine art, performance art, photography, graphic design, illustration and no doubt… time management.

Scenographers Tools

The required skills for any theatre designer or scenographer will of course vary depending on the production and the company for which he or she is working. A commercial production in the West End of London will quite likely have a designer and a costume designer and even regional theatre designers will on occasion be supported by an assistant designer or work in collaboration with a costume designer. However a young designer aiming to break into the industry will carry in their kit-bag a range of artistic media and skills; costume making, scenic art, construction, and of course a talent and ability to design a performance environment and costume.

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Discussion

12 thoughts on “What is Scenography?

  1. Hi!

    I actually have some questions… I’m a mexican student in Architecture, I’m about to finish my 5 years course, and I want to aim my studies towards scenography and performance production. I want to study a master in Europe since it has been for many years my wish and interest. But it’s been kind of hard for me to find schools with this kind of masters, except for Barcelona’s UPC where I’ve found a master related to museography, scenography and display.

    I was wondering if you can help me to gain some information on UK schools that have this kind of post-g programs related to scenography.

    Thanks in advance.

    Octavio J.

    Posted by Octavio J. | May 17, 2008, 9:59 pm
    • Hi Octavio

      Try Zurich University of the Arts, they offer a Masters of Advanced Studies in Scenography, I will be starting the program in September. here is the link :
      http://www.zhdk.ch/index.php?id=779
      or just go to the main page and seacrch for MAS Scenography.The program is taught in English, it is for 2 years and it costs 20,000 CHF for the whole program, you still have to provide your living expensis.
      It is a wonderful program.

      Best regards
      Gassim

      Posted by Gassim Abdelkader | August 3, 2010, 6:25 pm
    • I study ‘design for Performance’ at the University of Kent, Canterbury. I am doing an undergraduate masters programme and It’s really great. i enjoy it a lot. i would recommend looking at going there. hope this helps. Helenka Hewitt.

      Posted by Helenka Hewitt | December 24, 2011, 10:00 pm
  2. Octavio : visit the SBTD Website (try google) and look at their training pages

    Posted by office | September 10, 2008, 4:57 pm
  3. Hi,

    I am really passionate about studying Scenography and am so inspired by the genre as it is not something offered in my home country of sunny Australia. I am having trouble finding courses in it though as I understand it is a bit of a niche market. I am cureently living in London but would LOVE to get out of here to another European city which offers the course. Vould anyone point me in the right direction?? If they offer the course in ENglish that would be brilliant but I will learn the language of required!

    Thanks a lot in advance,

    Cheers,
    Susan

    Posted by Susan | October 3, 2008, 8:18 pm
    • Hi Susan

      Try Zurich University of the Arts, they offer a Masters of Advanced Studies in Scenography, I will be starting the program in September. here is the link :
      http://www.zhdk.ch/index.php?id=779
      or just go to the main page and seacrch for MAS Scenography.The program is taught in English, it is for 2 years and it costs 20,000 CHF for the whole program, you still have to provide your living expensis.
      It is a wonderful program.

      Best regards
      Gassim

      Posted by Gassim Abdelkader | August 3, 2010, 6:24 pm
  4. To Ocatvio J and office,

    In the Uk I have found two courses at Central St Martins and LABAN (focus on dance). Both are MA’s and go for a year.

    HOpe this helps!
    Susan

    Posted by Susan | October 3, 2008, 8:20 pm
  5. Susan.. try DAMU in Prague and Institute of Theatre in Barcelona, cant think of any other off the top of my head at the moment sorry

    Posted by office | October 17, 2008, 7:22 pm
  6. Hi! I’m 15 years old and I am living in Greece.I would really appreciate it if you could answer my simple but really important to me questions.To begin with, in order to become a scenographer what should someone study? Architecture or something about theatre? And which country is said to have a university focused on theatre scenography ?

    Thank a lot in advance
    Konstantina

    Posted by Konstantina | November 21, 2008, 8:08 pm
  7. Konstantina… try asking your question in our forums where you will get a better reply

    Study : Theatre Design/Scenography

    Countries : Most

    Posted by office | November 21, 2008, 8:28 pm
  8. Hey Gassim, my name is Osk and I am Icelandic young woman living in Copenhagen Denmark. I am edducated Make-up artist and beauty therapist. I just visitet America for month and just feld in love with New York, I really want to study scenography in N.Y, then I reed your things about there is a big diffrent for scenografi in Europe and the U.S ? I s is stil like that, is there not clever to take this edducation un the Us. If no, what are the best schools,

    Thank you for your time ,

    all the best Ósk 🙂

    Posted by Osk | September 25, 2011, 10:27 pm

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