A list of questions to answer and concepts to think about for Destination Imagination constructing props and backdrops.

Remember the creative construction basics:

FUSS
F - Function – what function will it serve? Do you need it?
U - How useful/necessary is this item? Is it easy to use?
S - What is the shape? Is it interesting?
S - Is it secure? Will it stand up or do what it is intended to do? If not, why not?

What is the item’s purpose?

  • Do you need a backdrop/set? What is it’s purpose?
  • What is it supposed to look like in it’s final form?
  • Is it necessary to the final production?
  • Will it serve double duty?
  • If so, can a single material serve both functions?
  • Can materials be combined?

Design

  • Single piece?
    • How will it stand up?
    • Does it have multiple uses?
  • Multiple pieces?
    • How will they align?
    • How will you join them together?
    • All the same size?
    • Any attached items? Or items that attach to the backdrop/prop?
    • How will it stay up?
  • Will it fit?
    • How will it fit into transportation?
    • Will it fit into the prep area, launch area, and the performance space?
    • Will it fit through any doors / hallways / etc. which are between the prop storage area and the performance space?
  • How many scene changes does your script require?
  • Elements of interest/dimension - real life is 3D - not just 2D
    • Does your backdrop/set/prop design incorporate cut-outs? Drop downs? Add ons?
    • Moveable/moving parts?
  • How many people are required to carry the backdrop/set?
    • Can it be carried by one person? Does it need 2 or more?
    • If it can’t be carried, how can you get it to the performance site without harming the floor? - wheels, felt on the bottom, any other means of transporting without harming floor?
  • How long will it take to set up the backdrop/set for the first scene? How many props need to be set up along with the backdrop?
  • How long will it take to change scenes? How many are in the script? How many scene changes will work in the time allotted?
  • How can you design the set/backdrop to be easier to set up?

Made of what?

A non-exhaustive list of possibilities:

  • newspaper/paper mache
  • wood – solid, plywood, particle board, dowels, other
  • cardboard - which way is corrugated cardboard stronger?
  • plastic
  • carpet
  • pvc
  • fabric / canvas / sheets / shower curtains
  • glass
  • foam boards
  • ceramic / clay
  • metal / wire
  • recycled materials (remnants) such as shoe boxes, milk jugs, pillow stuffing, paper towel rolls, wallpaper, cardboard boxes, yarn, used clothes, milk cartons, etc.

Will the materials chosen support the final weight of the backdrop / prop, including paint, decoration, etc.?

Bonding Materials — Put together with what?

Some examples:

  • Hot glue / Glue sticks / Elmer’s glue / Epoxy / spray adhesive
  • Instant Glue / Cyanoacrylate / Acclerator
  • Duct tape
  • Nails
  • Screws & Bolts
  • Velcro
  • Tacks
  • Hinges
  • Rope
  • Iron-on
  • Contact Paper
  • Tape
  • Wallpaper glue
  • Soldering
  • Welding

Questions:

  • What unique ways can you put items together?
  • How to decide which materials and “put-together” stuff will work best for your project? 
  • Which is most permanent? Will it handle multiple use/prolonged use? 
  • Easily moved? Easily stored? Versatile?

Combinations: What type of adhesive/bonding materials work best for…

  • paper to paper
  • metal to metal
  • wood to wood
  • cardboard to cardboard
  • foam to foam
  • plastic to plastic
  • glass to glass
  • fabric to fabric

…and all the combinations between these items?

Tools

What tools do you need? Where can you get them?

  • Your house
  • Ask your team members if they have them
  • Ask your team managers if they have them
  • Ask friends if they have them
  • Maker Space
  • Purchase
  • Rental

Questions:

  • Are you trained in the safe use of the tools?
  • Who can instruct you on the safe use?
  • What are your team rules for use of power tools?
  • Does a TM or adult need to be in attendence?

Remember:

  • There is a right tool for the job, and there are many wrong or inappropriate tools for the job.
  • The right tool always works better, and is always safer to use.
  • A sharp blade is safer to use than a dull one.
  • Tools don't count against budget if they are not on stage during the performance!

Skills

If you don’t know how to do a skill you need to make something or do something...

  • Ask parents, teachers or team managers how to do a specific skill
  • Get a book on the matter and figure it out
  • Ask a professional in the field to show you how to do it – but not on the material you will use for the finished project.

Skills training is NOT interference — as long as the selection of skills is determined by the team

Decorating Props and Backdrops

  • How will you decorate your backdrops/props?
  • Where will you get these items?
  • How much do you need?
  • Possible decorating materials:
    paint, newspaper, wallpaper, magazines, posterboard, photographs, carpet, construction paper, nail polish, markers, wrapping paper, tissue paper, colored glue, glitter, feathers, cellophane, aluminum foil, crayons, etc.

Results

Does the finished product look like something that…

  • …will cause the appraisers to say "wow"?
  • …you would be willing to pick up from a store shelf and buy?
  • …you would see in a professional theater production?
  • …you stretched to create?
  • …a kindergarden student put it together in 15 minutes?

Final Questions to Ask

  • How does it look from 10-20 feet away (distance from which appraisers will see it)?
  • What details can be added / changed to make it appear better?
  • Are you proud of how it looks?
  • How can it be improved?
  • Do you have time / materials / budget to make it better?

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