Set Dressing. Probably one of the most enjoyable and most demanding parts of this job. Eric Hart recently wrote an entry about bric-a-brac on his site, which touches on this. For my own part (and perhaps I betray my ethnic/religious origins), I like to call them tchotzkes.
Anyways, lots of plays have them. And dressing a set really gets to be about getting inside the head of the characters (and your designer), and figuring out where they would put stuff.
Mr and Mrs Fitch has an entire wall that is a giant bookcase, about 15’x20′. Luckily for us (and our budget), the play is set in the present, so we basically borrowed all of the books and tchotzkes to dress it. Books, in particular, take up far less space than you could imagine. The bookcase alone contains the entire book stock of Second Stage, and almost all of the books from the Public.
Anyways, it took me nearly an entire day to dress out these shelves, particularly because we did not yet have a track for the library ladder, so carrying books up it was a little harrowing. In the end, I took my messenger bag, emptied it out, slung it sideways across me and carried loads of book up that way. Like an apple picker in reverse.
Of course, we are still tweaking this part (thats the other thing about set dressing: it changes up until the last minute), but heres a more recent shot to show you the full effect:
What I love about set dressing is how it adds texture to a set. This set looked incredibly cartoonish and empty until we began to fill in the details. It also takes a designer with a light hand to stop dressing from being too out there, too theatrical. Its interesting, the clutter in our own homes if taken out of context can look way too theatrical in some onstage situations, and like not nearly enough in others. It takes someone paying attention to the entire scope of the details across a set to have a good sense of when to push dressing, and when to pull it back. Like dressing a salad, you have to think about what it will taste like when its all mixed up.
Ah. I think thats quite enough for now.