Having a functional ground plan is the most important thing a set designer can have. Also figuring out the ballet of scene changes can make or break a show. The flow of set must work with the flow of the show.
How do you make this work?
Measure the space that you are working in. Figure out what the stage has going for it, whats working, also figure out what to avoid. I am designing a huge musical coming up and this stage does not have a stage right exit, big giant wall in the way. The stage is also not very big. However, it does have three movable traveler tracks, possibly to attach scenery to, it also has a motorized scrim. So now I know the strong points and the weeks points this stage has. Play off the strong points and make the week points stronger.
You will also need to nail down how much space you have back stage. This will tell you how big your movable set pieces need to be. Or if you are tight with wing space you can design the set to spin and transform before your eyes.
Remember to have precise measurements. I once designed a backdrop and accidentally wrote a two instead of a one and my backdrop was sewn 10 feet too large. It didn't fit where I wanted it and it had to be moved way upstage, working with dead hung battens....they don't fly in or out. Super duper embarrassed. Good thing it made a critics list of memorble sets at the end of the year.
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