Making worlds: Building the set of Picnic at Hanging Rock
After the success of NIDA’s June Production Season, take a deeper look at how a student-led creative team realise a fully functional set for each show, from first designs to opening night.
NIDA’s unique training gives students from all disciplines an opportunity to come together and create work collaboratively as they would in a professional performing arts company.
Above: Third-year BFA (Acting) students perform a scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock
Ahead of each production season, NIDA third year Scenic Construction and Technology (SCT) students take the lead in planning and building the set for their chosen play, led by Production Manager and SCT Course Leader Nick Day along with a team of mentors and tutors, and in collaboration with the production director and other NIDA students in the company.
For the June Season, third-year student Joshua Abbott chose to work on Picnic at Hanging Rock, directed by NIDA alumna Claudia Osborne (MFA Directing, 2019) and adapted by Tom Wright from the book by Joan Lindsay.
As Construction Manager on the show, Josh’s process began by meeting with other members of the production team to get an understanding of the design and concept of the show. Initially, Josh worked with Production Stage Manager and third-year Technical Theatre and Stage Management student Jessica Pizzinga, Set and Props Designer and third-year Design for Performance student Hailley Hunt, Lighting and Video Designer and third-year Technical Theatre and Stage Management student Jodi Rabinowitz, as well as Sound Designer and Engineer Maddy Picard and Deputy Stage Manager Amy Norton, both second-year Technical Theatre and Stage Management students.
Hailley Hunt, who was the set and props designer on the show, shared her creative process, which informed her designs. “When starting a new project, I find identifying what we want the audience to feel from the work the most helpful. In this case, it was a sense of tension and unease, so I played with changing up the seating bank, designing on the diagonal and working with disorientation as a key stepping stone.”
Above: Third-year BFA Design for Performance student Hailley Hunt's model box
Using Hailley’s drawings and designs, Josh got to work on plans for the set and buildable objects as well as costing and scheduling the build. As Josh remarked, “The build itself is one of the best parts as we can get on to making worlds.”
Hailley described the process, “I worked with Josh to bring the design to reality, looking at how all of the elements would come together, and having Josh resolve and execute the technical problem-solving aspects to do with tracking systems and fly lines and bumping the set in.”
Above: Bumping in Picnic at Hanging Rock
Key pieces of the set included a functional swing and a working fountain, created by Properties Supervisor and third-year Props student Tallulah Baran.
The world of the show is fully realised during bump-in week, when set pieces, rigging and stage mechanics are brought together. Josh described how it all came together, “Once the set is in the venue and all moving parts are working, I take a step back from the process and let stage management and technical teams take over and bring the set to life.”
Hailley reflected on her role, and the culmination of months of work, “I am incredibly grateful I was able to design something so abstract for such a beautiful and fascinating text. One highlight of my experience was walking into the venue to see the aperture for the first time. This design I had been working so hard on, and had developed from the beginning, was now real and in front of me – it felt like I had shrunk down into my model box.”
Above: Hailley's designs and a scene from Picnic at Hanging Rock
Feeling inspired? Applications are now open to study at NIDA in 2023. It’s free to apply to any of NIDA’s 13 full-time courses this year. For all information and how to apply visit apply.nida.edu.au.