From scratch: Constructing the set designs of ‘Kiss Me, Kate’


Performers act out a scene for Kiss Me Kate.

Madeline Crandall

Building a musical from the ground up is no simple task — just ask Tamara Honesty.

As the scenic designer for “Kiss Me, Kate,” Kent State’s School of Theatre and Dance’s latest production, Honesty oversaw a squad of students tasked with creating the visual environment for the musical with nothing but an empty stage to start with.

“Understanding the big vision was goal,” Honesty said. “There was probably over 100 people working on this, so making sure everyone is on the same page was crucial.”

To begin, everything is drawn out to scale in what is called a “drafting plate.” That material from the designers is sent to a technical director to figure out the engineering of the design.

From there, it is given to carpenters to accumulate and accomplish the set. Then it goes to paint where they complete the designers’ vision.

Honesty explained that the beginning steps of the whole process are what take the longest. The process of taking an idea and using communication to visually and physically create the idea was a struggle for the crew at first.

“What starts out as sketch on a piece of paper in the beginning really does come to life,” Honesty said. “The process is long, but it’s worth it all at the end when we get to see it all come together. It’s really exciting.”

Six backdrops were needed for the production of “Kiss Me Kate,” but the crew created four — three painted and one printed. Honesty said this part of the paint process is her favorite, but also the most challenging.

“We are adding a lot of little detail pieces to the set now as the show is coming up,” she said, one week out from opening night. “A huge list has been made of all the finishing touches that need to be complete, full of paint notes, prop notes and a whole page of set notes — ranging from 10-minute projects to hour-long fixings.”

Honesty said safety in the shop is important for the crew throughout the production process. Safety glasses, hearing protection, hard-hats, water-based paint and closed toe shoes are requirements in the scene shop.

Elizabeth Woodard, a senior theatre studies major and “Kiss Me, Kate” cast member, said the production is the largest set she has worked on.

“They hand-painted these huge, scenic backdrops with all these beautiful colors,” Woodard said. “The set team is incredibly talented and they do not get enough praise for the work that they do.”

The set ranges from earthy, natural tones to vibrant colors that represent the qualities the crew wanted the set to embody.

“There is passion and a very romantic nature in the whole set,” Honesty said. “We did our best to heighten those characteristics so the audience could best understand the story.”

Madeline Crandall is a entertainment reporter, contact her at [email protected].