Pre-College Stage Design Studio Program

The Stage Design Studio program is advantageous for students who enjoy or are curious about design and technology for theater and film. The course is run by professional designers who share their own processes and provide experience in all the stages of creating and presenting ideas for scenic costume and lighting designs. The program culminates in a design presentation, with each student sharing their work and ideas.

If you are unsure about what a designer does or unsure about pursuing a design career, this course will give you the experience you need to make an informed decision. If you are looking at applying to stage design college programs, this course will expand your portfolio and your understanding of what you will be doing in college and beyond. If you are interested in other design careers, but curious about theater, you will enjoy the program and apply what you learn to other areas of design. The Stage Design Showcase is scheduled for Friday, August 12, 2016.

Please note: This program is designed for students who want intensive training in the elements of theatrical design, have respect for the design process, and understand how to manage their time and complete assignments both in and out of the classroom. Stage Design Studio is a noncredit program.

Program Features

Stage Design Studio focuses on developing and strengthening theatrical design skills. Students who participate in the program:

  • Define themselves as designers and communicate their identity in two- and three-dimensional design practices
  • Develop a process that includes conceptualization, emotional intention, research, collaborative discussion, and ongoing rough drafts
  • Analyze a script and translate its ideas into visual images
  • Build and improve their knowledge of the principles, functions, and elements of scenic, lighting, costume, and mask and makeup design
  • Understand visual perspective and how it is used to communicate ideas
  • Practice graphic techniques, symbolization, and terminology used in theatrical design
  • Develop skills in the artistic presentation of theatrical design concepts
  • Construct a portfolio of their design/tech projects suitable for the college admission process

Stage Design Showcase

Each student is required to accumulate a body of visual work that is a combination of process (rough) and completed design. On the final day of the course, each student will present his or her work to an audience of family, friends and peers. Showcase: August 12, 2016.


Program Dates and Costs

Program Dates (including required orientation): July 10–August 14, 2016
Showcase: August 12, 2016
Move-out day (for on-campus students): August 14, 2016–by noon

Stage Design Studio is offered as a noncredit program.

Stage Design Program Costs per student:

  • Residential: $6,531
  • Commuter: $3,236

Lunch, Monday through Friday is included. The residential option includes room, linens, breakfast and dinner on weekdays, and brunch on weekends.

Non-refundable program application fee: $60
Stage Design Priority Application Deadline: May 2, 2016


Who Should Apply

Stage Design Studio is designed for students who want intensive training in the elements of theatrical and cinematic design, have respect for the design process, and understand how to manage their time and complete assignments both in and out of the classroom. Students entering grades 10, 11 and 12 during the 2017-2018 academic school year and who have the desire and maturity to receive constructive criticism about their work and give helpful feedback to others during the program are encouraged to apply.

Each candidate for the Stage Design Studio Program must submit the required application form (completed and signed), a non-refundable $60 application fee, and the following documents.

  • Student Statement of Purpose: In one or two pages, please describe: 1) what you hope to achieve during the Pre-College Program, and 2) an event you feel has prepared you for Emerson's Pre-College Program.
  • Essay: In one or two pages, discuss the following: a theatrical production, film or visual artwork that you believe has most influenced or inspired you and your design work.
  • Teacher Recommendation: Please submit at least one recommendation, completed by a teacher who knows your work. If possible, the teacher should know your work in the field to which you are applying.
  • Resume of your theatrical, visual art, or design experience.
  • Photos of your work are encouraged, but not required.

We will accept applications through June 13, 2016. Admission to Emerson College's Arts and Communication Pre-College Programs is on a rolling basis. We suggest applying early, as space is limited. Admission decisions are made frequently.

The priority application deadline for Stage Design Studio is May 2, 2016.

International Student Applicants
The final deadline for international student applicants is May 23, 2016. Visit international student information to learn about additional required application materials and find out more about applying to pre-college programs.


Stage Design Classes

All students are required to continuously practice each skill taught, at their own level and pace. During the first week of the course, students begin covering specific techniques that are universally recognized as part of the theatrical design process. These include, but are not limited to: sketching from life, sketching from photographs and research, research from observation, research in the library and online, drafting technique (by hand), color technique (primarily watercolors), and model making and paper sculpting.

Skill practice will be assigned on a regular basis. In addition, students are assigned a daily rapid visualization* project. The expectation is that students will spend a minimum of sixty minutes each evening practicing or preparing work for review on the following day. Daily projects and practice become part of the students’ sketchbook, which will become part of the portfolio.

*Rapid Visualization is a term coined by artist, designer and educator Martin Mendelsberg and is a key component of our teaching philosophy. Rapid Visualization refers to any method we employ to generate ideas quickly, viscerally, and as clearly as possible. In creating a rapid visual, we access both the designer’s intention and the artist’s emotional response. Our goal is to find as many different ways of rapid communication as possible, so that each student can discover a method that works.

Each student is required to keep a daily sketchbook, which by the end of the five weeks will be filled with drawings of personal observations and ideas as well as homework assignments. The sketchbook is an adjunct to the portfolio and selections may be mounted as part of the presentation.

As theater is collaborative, students may work in pairs or teams. Each student is required to take on a defined, individual role within his or her team and identify this contribution before, during, and after completing the project. If applicable, the individually produced portion will become part of that designer’s portfolio. The final collaborative projects are photographed and included in each individual portfolio, with credit given to all participants.

Students master thoughtful and useful critique daily in class. Each student is expected to participate in these discussions.

Each student is required to accumulate a body of visual work that is a combination of process (rough) and completed design. On the final day of the course, each student will present his or her work to an audience of family, friends and peers.


Required Materials

Participants are expected to provide their own art supplies. A list of items will be provided.

EMERSON COLLEGE RESERVES THE RIGHT TO CHANGE ANY PROVISION OF THIS PROGRAM AT ANY TIME. THE COLLEGE SPECIFICALLY RESERVES THE RIGHT TO CHANGE ITS TUITION RATES AND ANY OTHER FINANCIAL CHARGES. THE COLLEGE ALSO RESERVES THE RIGHT TO REARRANGE ITS COURSES AND CLASS HOURS, TO DROP COURSES FOR WHICH REGISTRATION FALLS BELOW THE MINIMUM ENROLLMENT, AND TO CHANGE INSTRUCTOR ASSIGNMENTS.

Note: pre-college programs are not eligible for Emerson college's tuition benefits.

The online application process for Summer 2017 will open December 15, 2016.