From Preliminary Sketch to Finished Set
Design Notes from Julian Wiles
Scenic Designer of “Mary Poppins”
Folks often ask how we come up with the sets for Charleston Stage productions. When we get the script we don’t get the sets or even the set designs for the scenery a show needs. Sets and costumes for Charleston Stage are original and constructed in our own scene shops.
And all of the set designs and scenery for “Mary Poppins” were assigned to me. I decided to start with the nursery.
In the original production of “Mary Poppins” on Broadway there were actually two sets for the children’s nursery— the nursery itself and a separate set for the rooftop. With our limited space at the Dock Street Theatre, it seemed to me to make more sense to combine these two locales. The result gives us an imaginative nursery with the rooftops above it.
I also thought it would be fun to have Michael’s side of the nursery based on a castle and Jane’s on a dollhouse. From these basic ideas I started with a really rough pencil sketch which you can see below.
From this sketch a scale “white model” was created by our production staff. This is a simple, white cardboard scale model that helps us flesh out the design. Next director Marybeth Clark used this model to be sure all the staging she had in mind would work before we moved forward and began to build this set.
Once we had approval from Marybeth, working drawings (blueprints) for the nursery were created and last December our shop staff went to work constructing all of the walls, rooftops and other scenic elements for this enchanting set. After the walls and roof sections were complete, scenic charge artist Jessica Novo and scores of volunteers, including many of our TheatreWings High School Apprentices, went to work painting all the many details on the set. To create more depth and a more realistic 3-D look, shading was added to details like the roof shingles and the brick chimneys. The result is this lovely nursery set.
There are some magic tricks hidden here and there on this set, but I won’t give those away.
We hope you are pleased with the result, and remember the nursery set is only one of eight magical sets for “Mary Poppins”!
Charleston Stage’s “Mary Poppins” continues running April 21 – May 1, 2016, at the Historic Dock Street Theatre. For tickets, call (843) 577-7183 or purchase online by clicking here.