Sarah Paulley created the Summer School in Theatre Design 10 years ago to offer an introduction to the skills, techniques and career structure of ‘Theatre Design’.

Intended to fill a gap in creative education in Scotland, it is aimed at recent graduates and young practitioners from a wide range of related disciplines who want to find out if Production Design or Scenography (as it is sometimes called), could be a career path that would appeal to them in the future.

Over 150 participants have taken the course:
They have included architects, actors, animators, textile designers, interior designers, graphic artists, fine artists, writers and directors. Many have gone on to work in designing and making within the theatre and film industries, or to more intensive postgraduate design courses, such as Motley and Bristol Old Vic.

While theatre itself may be a very specialist world the entertainment industry uses designers from films to theme parks, games and events, and theatre design skills are extremely transferable.
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Theatre Design Summer School

Mon 23 Aug 2010- Sat 28 Aug 2010

Times tbc

The Arches Theatre Design School

The Arches' annual Theatre Design Summer School is a unique introduction to designing for live performance. Run by Sarah Paulley, Lecturer in Set Design at Queen Margaret University, the six-day course offers a hands-on introduction to set design for theatre, with many students pursuing further training and careers in the industry.

Covering script reading, plans, scale and model making, costume and lighting, it is aimed at anyone with a visual art, design, architecture or theatre background who is considering specialising in production design.

For more info please contact Lucy Gaizely on

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The Structure Of The Course:

The course is constructed to replicate the practical and creative path theatre designers take to arrive at a finished Set and Costume Design.

Learning is based on a linked series of practical hands-on exercises ending in a 2-day studio period in which each participant works out their own design solution to a given text in the form of a model and/or set of costume plates.

Please believe that it not essential to be able to draw and paint! There are many other techniques you can apply.

Throughout the week there be a series of talks and Q&A sessions with professional theatre practitioners from linked specialist areas.

Working Hours are 10:00 – 7:30
How to analyse Theatrical Space:
Measurements and Surveying techniques.
Plans: how to read them and how to make them.
Model boxes Why and how to build them.

Evening Session:
Meet a working Designer.

How to ‘read’ and analyse a theatrical text:
Personal response.
Script breakdowns.
Unit and Caption.

Evening Session:
Meet a Director.

How to develop a Design Concept:
Research Techniques.
Period – The given time and place.
Visual reference and inspiration.

Evening Session:
Personal Research.

Introducing The Designer's Resources:
Lighting, sound and AV - a morning with technical designers.
Costume, sessions with a Costume Designer and Wardrobe Supervisor.

Evening Session:
Choose and develop your design project / Tutorial with Director / Designer.

Build your Model Box
Develop design concept through the model
Add Video
Complete your Sketch Model

6:00- Private Exhibition


This may be subject to minor variations.
For practical reasons this course does not cover the realisation of the designs themselves.
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Sarah Paulley:

Sarah fell in love with theatre and theatre design while doing a degree in history at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. After graduating in 1969 she went to Motley in London and did a years postgraduate diploma in Set and Costume Design. Since then she has worked freelance combining theatre design with production management, mainly for large-scale site specific performance projects.

At present she is a Lecturer in Set Design at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh; previously she has taught at Rose Bruford College, Royal Holloway and Bedford College and Glasgow School of Art amongst a number of other institutions.

She has worked on at least 350 shows, most of them long forgotten, which included work for Theatre Royal Stratford East, 7:84, Modern Times, Avon Touring, and The Welsh National Theatre. More recently she has designed a sequence of Shakespeare plays for Bard in the Botanics in Glasgow, the Pinter and Beckett seasons for the Arches, and is currently working on an outreach project with Scottish Opera.
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