NIDA acknowledges the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the lands on which we learn and tell stories, the Bidjigal, Gadigal, Dharawal and Dharug peoples, and we pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Elders past and present.


Eryn Douglas: Mastering the Art of Set Construction at NIDA and Beyond

Eryn Douglas (Scenic Construction, 2023)* is a distinguished NIDA graduand whose passion for building and creating has propelled her into a dynamic career in set construction. Currently working as the Stage Left Mechanist on the vibrant production of &Juliet at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, Eryn’s journey from a creative hobbyist to a professional in the theatre industry is a testament to following one’s artistic calling. In this interview Eryn opens up about her educational highlights, her proudest accomplishments, and offers sage advice for future set construction technologists.

Why did you apply for NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Scenic Construction Technologies?

Ever since I was little, I’ve loved to build things. I’m a very practical, hands-on person. I’ve also always loved movies and theatre, and I realised that there was a whole industry that combined these two interests. I started looking at different university courses and happened to stumble upon NIDA’s Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Scenic Construction Technologies. It was exactly what I was looking for; a practical degree that was based around constructing sets for theatre and film. Applying just seemed like the obvious next step, and I’ll forever be glad that I did.

Eryn Douglass learning harness skills in the NIDA atrium.
Eryn Douglas (Scenic Construction, 2023) showcasing harness skills in the NIDA atrium.

What were some of your highlights while studying at NIDA?

I think one of my highlights while studying at NIDA has got to be working on their production seasons. Getting to help build the sets for and work on these shows was one of my favourite things about NIDA. I really enjoyed getting to work with the other disciplines, and getting to be in the workshop, learning new techniques and building the sets was lots of fun. It was difficult at times, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Another thing I really enjoyed was the rigging classes where we learnt human flying. Getting to climb around on truss, rig off NIDA’s roof, and actually getting harnessed up and flying in the Atrium was definitely one of my highlights from my time at NIDA.

What is the project that you are most proud of and why?

I think the project that I’m most proud of is my masterwork. Making a life-size, remote-controlled, light-up Dalek was not something I ever even imagined I’d be able to do, but thanks to NIDA I had the facilities and resources to make it happen. Although I didn’t accomplish everything I had initially planned in regards to moving parts, considering the time and budget available for the build, I’m super proud of how it turned out.

Masterwork Eryn Douglas
Eryn Douglas created a Dalek from the BBC TV series Doctor Who as her third-year Scenic Construction Masterwork, 2023. Photo by Phil Erbacher.

How did NIDA prepare you for working on stage productions such as &Juliet?

I think working on the production seasons at NIDA is probably what helped prepare me the most. Learning how everything works backstage and the terminology used, as well as getting to work with the other courses, has definitely helped me figure out my role on the show and where I fit within the company.

Can you tell us a little bit about what your role on &Juliet has been?

My role on &Juliet is the Stage Left Mechanist. What this involves is assisting the SL Props person move all the larger props, like the beds and the carriage, both into the wings and off the stage, as well as shuffling them around backstage to make it easier to get them to their entry points.

Roar in &Juliet performed by the Original Australian Company at Sydney Lyric Theatre. Photo by Daniel Boud
‘Roar’ from &Juliet performed by the Original Australian Company at Sydney Lyric Theatre. Photo by Daniel Boud.

Are other alumni involved in this production and what has it been like working with them?

Yes, there are actually quite a few alumni involved in &Juliet, at least 13 others, to my knowledge, across all departments. I know a few of them from my time at NIDA, and it’s been great getting to work with them again. They are all very professional, and very fun to work with.

What advice do you have for any creatives who are considering applying for the BFA in Set Construction Technologies?

I think the biggest piece of advice I can give is to love what you do. NIDA is such a great place to meet people and learn more about your chosen field, but it can be challenging at times. Keeping in mind that you’re there because you love what you do and you want to learn more will definitely help you push through the tougher elements of the course, and you’ll come out the other side all the better for it.

Sets Eryn Douglas
Eryn Douglas in the Set Construction Technologies workshop at NIDA. Photo by Phil Erbacher.

What is next for you?

My plan at the moment is to continue working in Sydney as a local mechanist in the theatre industry, but eventually I’m hoping to use my skills to gain more experience in the film and TV industry. Thanks to my secondment during my time at NIDA, I already have some experience working in this area, but I would really love to expand on that.

*This degree is now named Bachelor of Fine Arts in Set Construction Technologies.

Learn more about NIDA’s BFA Set Construction Technologies and apply online.