Meet the Creative Team | Set Designer Eric Bunnell

Set Designer Eric Bunnell is a Lighthouse favourite, designing a number of sets in the past, including Hurry Hard, Stage Fright & Ghost Island Light. We chatted with Eric about the do’s and dont’s of set design, how he comes up with his unique concepts, and how he creates those amazing maquettes.

Eric Bunnell
Eric Bunnell

Q: How do you approach set design for a new production? 

A: How do I approach a set design? I read the script to see what it says to me. I ask the director their concept and discuss scenic approaches. And  I get my resources … my budget, my calendar, my staffing for the build …  from the theatre. Then I make a martini, and throw everything into a Mixmaster (martini into me) in hopes we’ll come up with the batter for a successful cake!

Q: How do you work with the director and other designers to create a cohesive design for the production?

A: Designing a production … sets and props, costumes, lights, sound … is hugely collaborative. We all work together, giving and taking, wth the director, stage management, production crew. They say armies march on their stomachs. Well, never mind that Mixmaster. Productions march on meetings and memos! Lots of memos.

Come Down From Up River maquette designed by Eric Bunnell & realized by Dariusz Korbiel & Eric Bunnell

Q: How do you create renderings or models of your set designs? 

A: Well, I wish getting my design down on paper was as easy as leaving out a tiny pair of shoes overnight for elves. I’m an old school creator. I sit at my table and draft my drawings using a pencil and scale rule. And when it comes to building a maquette which is a set model, it’s whatever works to create a world in miniature. Who knew brown buttons make the perfect ashtrays! I recently invested in a 3D printer, though, and am exploring those possibilities.

Q: What are some common mistakes made in set design? 

A: Mistakes!?! Aw, c’mon. When I turn in my drawings, I always say I don’t make mistakes … I make revisions! (And I hope to hell I haven’t again misread the scale on my rule and have drawn something two times too small ….)

Watercolour of the set for Come Down From Up River

Q: How can set design be used to enhance the storytelling of a production?

A: Bottom line about what I do. It ain’t theatre without design. Even before the first word is said on stage, design tells audiences what is coming their way … drama or comedy, period or modern … it sets the stage (‘scuse the pun!) and helps to move the story along from lights up to final curtain.