Cinderella – from Script to Stage

December 11, 2012

By Jon West, Master Carpenter / Assistant Technical Director

This may help those who want to learn how a play goes from script to stage at the Arden:

How a play gets made:

  1. Play is chosen by Artistic Department
  2. Director is decided upon by Artistic Deptartment
  3. Production budget is agreed upon by Production Deptartment and Business Deptartment
  4. Scenic, Lighting, illness Costume, Sound, and or Video Designers are chosen
  5. Design concepts are discussed by Director and Designers
  6. Preliminary designs are worked up in collaboration with Director
  7. Design Meetings are held with Production Deptartment and Director
  8. Designs are turned over to Production Deptartment
  9. Technical Director reviews drawings
  10. Assistant Technical Director and T.D. build scenic elements in scene shop
  11. Built scenic elements are loaded into the space and assembled on stage
  12. Set construction continues on stage
  13. Set is painted by Scenic Charge
  14. Set is completed and readied for rehearsal
  15. Properties Master dresses the set with required props and furnishings


Thinking about building the set for a play is a very different process than that of a designer.  As the Assistant Technical Director/Master Carpenter here, my job is not a design position; it is a production position in the most denotative of ways.  I do not dream of what could be, I produce the actual scenic product which has already been designed; it is my job to take the designer’s plan and make it a reality on stage.  This is my skill, to take an idea and make it possible.

 The tangible set elements start out as raw materials: lumber, steel, fabric, etc. These materials are manipulated to create the set in the Scene Shop.  Here is a photo of the Arden Scene Shop full of scenery ready to be installed and painted.

When building a set we require: time, space, and materials. The prep time for a show is the time spent building scenery in the shop before loading it into the theatre. As far as space goes, you can see the shop we use can get very full at times, like in the picture.  The materials we use vary greatly, but are primarily steel and lumber, as they are materials that are common in scenery construction.  Here are most (not all) of the materials that were used to create the set for Cinderella:

  • 2×4 Pine
  • 1×6 Pine
  • 2×3 Pine
  • 1×4 Pine
  • ¾” Birch Plywood
  • 3/16” Lauan
  • 2×6 Pine
  • Raw Natural Muslin Fabric
  • 18 ga. Steel Box Tube
  • Many different types of fasteners, adhesives, and hardware

All of these materials that are to be turned into scenery need to be measured, cut, and assembled into their appropriate pieces.  It is very hard to build a puzzle if you do not know how it goes together.  This is where the Designer’s technical drawings come into to play.  These drawings show the set in scale (ex. ½” = 1’-0”) that we use to measure and make sure that what is built matches what was designed.

This photo (below) shows various pieces of the set getting prepared for assembly and install.  The front of the stage deck (foreground) was made full-scale with strings (to draw the radii) and straightedges on plywood as per the designer’s drawing.

This photo (below) was taken shortly after the floor was finished, just days before actors started rehearsing on stage.

Using the steps that were laid out as to how a play is made, the construction of the set only takes 4 of the 15 steps.  It is an odd feeling to distill weeks of work into 4 concise steps.  What those steps require of the production department is varied, however, the goal is the same: make the set so the play can happen.

Cinderella by the numbers:

  • 450+ working hours (ATD, TD combined)
  • 300 cubic feet of compressed air (required to use pneumatic tools)
  • 10,000 fasteners
  • ½ gallon glue
  • 1,000 cuts of wood (approximately)



5 Responses

  1. Sheila & Larry Burstein says:

    As long time subscribers to the Arden, I have tried to expose our little ones to the wonderful world of theater. We are grandparents of six and have enjoyed the family treat together of taking all of them to the Arden. Only two of our grandchildren were able to make the show on Dec 8. With great disappointment, I am relaying a message to you. We were appalled at the fact that you would refer to “cutting off a toe and cutting part of the heal” in order to fit into a shoe. That is an idea that should never be portrayed in any family show, especially, a show for children. Please re-evaluate what is produced since all children are so very vulnerable.

    Thank you,
    Sheila & Larry Burstein

  2. Ron Attarian says:

    Cinderella was absolutely fantastic. Well done. I have nothing but positive comments. Took my son, 9 year old granddaughter, and 8 year old nephew. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the production. My compliments for a great, fascinating, well-produced show. Can’t wait for Pinocchio!

    Actors were beyond wonderful!

  3. Laura says:

    I bought tickets for all my 6 nieces, mom, and sister for Christmas. The adults all felt the same. The show was “too dark” for little ones. The constant talk about sickness, the death of the mother, the anger and aggression of Cinderella, and even “shut up, hell, and some of words were not appropriate. I was hoping for a fun, happy Cinderella story but the underlying theme of sadness was too much. Some parts were funny like the last 20 min of the show. I could see 4th or fifth graders enjoying it. I loved “Frog and Toad” and “If you give a mouse a cookie” I enjoy the Arden cause of the intimate setting and creative use of shadowing and imagination. I do hope Pinocchio is not like this. Please let me know. I was thinking about get tickets but I’m not so sure now.

  4. Arden says:

    We appreciate your feedback on our production of Cinderella! Your feedback and response is valuable to us as we continue to strive to make quality family theatre, so thank you for sharing. We chose this script because the depth of story and character that the script offers is in line with our mission to tell great stories by great storytellers. As this version follows the original Grimm fairy tale more closely, we knew that audiences would be experiencing something unique with this show, and are proud to be presenting a retelling of the classic tale. We understand that the show does include many themes that are deeper and darker than other versions of the story, but we make every effort to keep our shows friendly for family members of all ages, and hope that this show sparks dialogue between adults and children in our audiences. As you know, we at the Arden believe in producing high-caliber work for audiences of all ages, and listening to our subscribers, ticket buyers and donors is a vital part of this process. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and we hope to see you in the spring for our imaginative and active production of Pinocchio–with the same writing/directing team as last season’s Robin Hood! If you enjoyed that production, you’ll be sure to love this one!

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