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Production Concept in Theater: Definition, Function & Example

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  • 0:01 What Is Production Concept?
  • 1:25 Interpretation
  • 2:36 Context and Atmosphere
  • 4:12 Composition
  • 5:07 Sound
  • 5:51 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: John Gonzales

John has 20+ years experience teaching at the college level in areas that include English and American literature, Humanities, and Interdisciplinary Studies.

This lesson defines production concept as it applies to dramatic theater and provides an overview of the basic elements and principles that go into its creation and use. See how important a cohesive plan is to the success of a production.

What Is Production Concept?

Imagine that you and several friends have decided to surprise a classmate who is laid up in the hospital by decorating her bedroom. You each agree to take a different piece of the project: paint, flooring, wall hangings and drapes, furniture, bed, and bedding.

But, you were all so enthusiastic that you didn't stop to coordinate beyond the separation of tasks or research her tastes. What do you think the results would be? Probably a clash of incompatible patterns, colors, and shapes, right? Maybe even a conflict in the kind of feeling that different elements created: one bright and cheery, one calming and earthy, one edgy and funky.

You could expect a similar result if a group of theater specialists - costume, set, lighting, sound, scene painting, and visual effects specialists - were asked to create a design for an arbitrarily chosen play but given no further guidance and no chance to coordinate. Put on stage, such a production would likely lack cohesion in every aspect of its design, creating confusing for the audience and undercutting the creative integrity of the script.

The production concept is the unifying creative vision for the design elements of a stage play. It allows such diverse elements as costumes, set design, and lighting to mutually support a creative goal. So how is a production concept itself conceptualized? It all begins with interpretation.

Interpretation

Interpretation is the act of drawing out and communicating underlying meaning from a creative work. Through careful and comprehensive interpretation, central themes and values can be identified within a play script and production elements designed accordingly.

Every script has an essence and a story to tell, and interpretation allows that essence to be defined and shared through a production concept. In brief, interpretation draws out the ideas of the play and sets them within a world that will be created on stage according to the production concept.

The format and the author of a production concept will vary depending upon production circumstances. In a smaller community theater, for example, the assigned director would likely generate it, perhaps using a standard form or checklist. In professional companies, there may be an individual assigned to each production and responsible for the production concept, who then coordinates with the director. In an academic setting, a production concept might be generated by faculty or even students. In all instances, the production concept considers context and atmosphere and applies them to elements of composition.

Context and Atmosphere

Context refers to environment, situation, and circumstances. For a play script, this might include everything from historical era and geographical setting, or even season of the year, to character circumstances like class, ethnicity, subculture, generation, or family unit. The atmosphere describes the tone, mood, and general feeling within the context.

Shakespeare's Macbeth, for example, moves in a stark and forbidding Scottish landscape with gloomy, murky medieval castles where bloody murders are plotted, witches brew up malice, and grisly violence occurs. The action of the play is charged with treachery and death, and the atmosphere is quite literally haunted. A production concept that called for bright lighting, pastel colors, soft textures, or nuts-and-bolts realism would likely work against the content of the play, undermining the script and frustrating attentive audiences.

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