Richard Cooper first conceived the idea for Stage Case earlier in the year, when he was working with We Teach Drama to deliver his hugely popular webinar Think Like a Set Designer. Since then, he has worked swiftly to develop a prototype and final design, collaborating with a range of teachers and examiners to create a unique teaching tool for schools and students. It is finally ready and there has been a huge buzz about the product on social media already. So, what is Stage Case and how did it evolve?
Stage Design in Theatre & Education
Richard Cooper is a professional Set and Costume designer based in the UK. His experience spans the UK, Europe and America as a Theatre Set and Costume Designer, Scenic Production Manager and Technical Director. He has practical experience in Scenic Carpentry, Scenic Painting, Lighting Design and Prop Making, which provide a technical base for his designs. His key knowledge of materials, construction technology and experience within the different departments of theatre provide a grounded approach for each design he creates. In 2020, he found himself in the same unfortunate position as every other theatre designer in the UK, with "cancelled shows, endless setbacks and producers unable to commit to budgets resulted in a very tricky year for Theatre Designers and Makers." Stagecase, he says, was borne out of this uncertain period and a desire to help students "visualise their performances". He says:
"I used this difficult time to learn new skills and take the adaptable skills that the theatre has given me to create something new."
Richard's extensive experience working with GCSE and A-Level Drama students has had a huge impact on the inception and development of Stage Case. Over many years, he worked with young performers, designing shows for the National Youth Music Theatre, working with designer Hilary Strong (Making Theatre Gaining Skills), We Teach Drama, plus several Drama Schools. He says that this gave him "an understanding of how young people learn the theatre design process."
What is Stage Case?
"Stage Case will inspire the next generation of designers, actors, makers, directors, choreographers and stage managers to explore theatre as a creative concept and learn the brilliant way live performance can communicate with an audience."
Stage Case is an innovative, new tool for teaching Stage, Design, Technical Theatre, Lighting Design and Acting Positions for GCSE , A level and Further Education. The box is a 1:25 scale theatre model with different stage formations, masking and borders, printed stage positions and technical terminology and working magnetic lights.
Stemming from his experience of working with students, Richard says that "during lessons, students engage with the text and narrative but sometimes lack the technical terminology and visual communication skills to explain how they want to achieve their brilliant ideas." With Stage Case, he wants to "provide a way to help students explore their ideas through a visual form and practical process, and to look at their performance in three dimension with layers and depth, so that they can not only say what is needed in a scene but why." Stage Case is also a 3D reference for students to learn and drama terminology when explaining their ideas. Richard says that "practical learning has been fundamental" throughout his own career and therefore, this "kinaesthetic approach" to teaching set design learning is central to the overall concept of Stage Case.
"A fundamental part of the box is the lighting rig and 3D renders which show how light affects a performer."
Students can see how light reacts to the features of the body and how shadows are formed. They can take the printed visuals and explore the same themes within the model using magnetic lights and experiment with focusing on scale figures. This chance to explore lighting design means students will be much more prepared when it comes to their technical rehearsal. They have the lantern names and attributes to hand to explain what they want to create. It also allows students to explore lighting design in a safe environment without the need of rigging, focusing and moving physical lanterns, which sometimes a school doesn’t have the facilities to do.
Stage Case is a unique teaching tool which is both practical and sophisticated. It's strength lies in the fact that it has been designed by a theatre professional, with significant experience in education too. Richard is looking to engage students "who might not get to see this side of the curtain" and provide a unique opportunity to get excited about ALL aspects of theatre.
Richard is now taking orders for his first batch of Stage Case. Please email him on email@example.com for more information and pricing. Stage Case will feature in some upcoming Think Like A Designer videos and resources for We Teach Drama, available to buy in September.