Creating a Great Stage Design, Part One

Paint CanIt was supposed to be an awesome stage set complementing our camp theme, “Under Construction.”  Aesthetically, it looked great!  Practically, it was an absolute nightmare!  The set depicted a wall of a house undergoing construction.  There were exposed wall studs, a few hanging wires, unfinished sheetrock, etc.  This part was easily portable.  The problem came when I thought it would be a grand idea to stack empty paint cans (at least 50 of them) on the sides of the wall to add a little “extra” to the set.  Our camp was going to be smaller than we had anticipated, so in order to create a more intimate environment our set was on the floor and not elevated on a stage.  We needed this same floor space for other activities; thus, several times each day my staff had to move the set.  Moving the set included unstacking and restacking every single paint can.  Every.  Single.  Paint.  Can.  What was supposed to be a great design turned into a programming disaster!

Recently I spoke with Jordon Rudesill, Director of Service Programming at The Journey Church in Murray, KY.  The Journey holds its weekly services on the campus of Murray State University, meaning the stage set has to be set up and taken down each week.  Here are four of eight key points I learned from Jordon on creating a great stage design.

  1. Adapt your design to the audience you will be reaching.  Kids love elaborate stage designs, such as the ones often seen during VBS.  Most adults don’t need a set like this to stay engaged.   Know your audience.
  2. Create something to enhance the service but not take away from the speaker and message.  If your set is a distraction to your group, you have not designed your stage well.  Sometimes simple is better.
  3. Make your stage lightweight.   Ask yourself, “Will those setting up and tearing down be able to easily lift the set?  How is this going to fit together on stage?  How will we store this?  How will we transport this?”
  4. Don’t allow your stage design to break your event budget.  Sometimes being restricted by money makes you become even more creative!  You can often find materials to “recycle” for use in your set.

Stay tuned for part two of this blog post where I will share the last four points I learned from Jordon, including great online resources for design ideas, recommendations for construction materials and more!

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