2005 MFA graduate Soo Lee designs for Shakespeare Orange County, South Coast Repertory, and Disney Entertainment Art in her first year out of school.
Scenic Design is a process of discovery. As designers explore their design ideas, they discover what will best clarify, support, and re-contextualize the story being told. A design itself becomes the series of choices made by designer, director and actor that define the world of the play. Each individual choice is not judged inherently worthy or valid, but rather the designer must assess whether in concert they create a unified whole; i.e. a system of meaning that creates resonance with the viewer. The scenic design program at UCIrvine bases its curriculum on developing a robust process of discovery and creating a generation of alert, incisive theater artists.
All good design begins with a nuanced reading of the text. The design is then developed through thoughtful conversations with colleagues and critical engagement with their work. As the shape of the design develops, the Designer must "maximalize" the ideas to help create the most vital moving event on stage. We strive to create designers who are first and foremost storytellers. It is our firm belief that this training also provides students the best background for work in related fields like television, film, and commercial design.
Key tools in this process of discovery are the designer's eye and hand. The development of the hand involves training in technical design and graphic skills. These are addressed in a series of technique-based classes that include hand-drafting, CAD drawings, 3D modeling, and Digital Imaging. The development of the designer's eye occurs in a series of core design courses that emphasize the "discovery" of design ideas, critical engagement with one's own work, and critical response to the work of fellow classmates. In addition, designers take dramatic literature and visual literacy classes to enrich their ability to work in a sophisticated and modern manner.
Production work begins for students in their first quarter of their first year. Typically students will assist on two productions in their first year and then design two in both their second and third years. Incoming graduate students with extensive experience may be assigned a project in the first year. Through productions students are able to both see their work realized and learn about the collaborative process. Scenic Designers learn to lead the design process and advocate for their ideas with directors and colleagues while maintaining a focus on what will serve the play as a whole. Great design inspires one's colleagues to create the most vital, exciting choices in the rest of the production.
Design at UCIrvine is a rigorous enterprise that prepares students both for work in the professional industry as well as a lifetime of creative exploration. Incoming students should expect a difficult, but rewarding experience in which setbacks are seen as fundamental aspect of the art-making process. Although specific experience in scenic design is not a pre-requisite of acceptance, prospective students should have an ability to express their ideas visually and verbally.
Following an active professional design career, Cliff Faulkner has dedicated himself to teaching and independent projects at UCIrvine since 1991. As the Interim Head of Scene Design for the 2012-2013 academic year, he leads a team of top guest artists from theater and television to provide an intensive training experience that is rich in its diverse viewpoints. Guests artists teaching at the graduate level include Adrian Jones, Grant Van Zevern, Aaron Jackson, and Soo Lee. More information about their work may be seen at their individual faculty pages or websites. Scenic design students also benefit from the opportunity to study with the six other award-winning design faculty in the Lighting, Sound, and Costume areas.
Facilities and Support
UCIrvine has 5 main performing venues: the 750-seat Irvine Barclay Theater (proscenium), 350-seat Claire Trevor Theater (proscenium), 399 seat Winifred Smith Hall (thrust), 99-seat experimental Robert Cohen Theater (black box), 99-seat Little Theater (proscenium). Graduate students are provided with studio space and computer labs equipped with CAD, and imaging software, scanners and large-format output devices. Qualified graduate students typically receive Tuition and Fee waivers, Teaching Assistantships, on-campus graduate student housing, and health insurance.