The ‘Craig’s Screens on Stage’ visualisation project was created by a group of students, in fulfillment of the assessment criteria for the module CL7037: Heritage Visualisation in Action with Dr Hugh Denard, as part of a MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture at Trinity College Dublin.
The project’s aim is to research, and subsequently integrate into Noho’s digital model of the stage of the old Abbey Theatre, three known arrangements and aesthetics of Craig’s screens – and in one case (The Hour-Glass) an associated lighting scenario, and to make these models freely available for other researchers to explore and develop. Whereas today only black-and-white, and architecturally-decontextualised images of the screens are available, the project will contribute to knowledge by introducing information about the surface textures and colour schemes, as well as accurately-calculated dimensions, of Screens-based scenography into their original place of performance. Taking account of the best practice guidelines expressed the London Charter for digital cultural heritage visualiation (please click here to read more); the project will publish full documentation of its research and visualisation activities in order to make them accessible and understandable to readers/users.
Analyse textual and visual sources to determine relevant principles of scenic and lighting arrangements for the Screens, especially in the old Abbey Theatre.
- Variety of readings (e.g. principles suggested include: the use of angles; the removal of light; the use of right angles and bold geometric forms etc.)
- Play texts
- Artists’ impression of scenography for Hour Glass (offers insight into how W.B. Yeats and Craig envisaged their scenographic principles being implemented in the Abbey theatre).
- Plans of arrangements for the old Abbey theatre (especially poetic dramas) of screens (which offers insight into how W.B. Yeats derived arrangements of screens from his plays).
- Photo (Plate in Dorn) of screens built and lit in the old Abbey theatre stage (this offers insight into how the screens and lighting, and scenographic principles, were actually implemented in practice).
- In order to validate virtual 3D modelling and lighting methods to meet this project’s aims, attempt to recreate the screen arrangement and lighting depicted in the artistic impressions of Yeats’s production of The Hour-Glass.
- Drawing on the analysis of textual and visual sources, above, derive hypothetical lighting configurations for Deirdre and The Deliverer (for which screen plans exist).
- Suggest (textually) the implications of these experiments for the interpretation and understanding of lighting for other plays for which screen plans survive.
How we decided on our Method:
Our methodology was informed by our aim. We felt that creating a selection of 3D visualisations would be the best course of action, as this would provide a new approach to the interpretation of stage design and Craig’s screens in particular. We felt that 2D models would not be satisfactory because they would not provide enough depth for what our Sponsor wanted. Initially it was proposed that we should create a sort of “game” which would allow users to manipulate the screens in a theatre environment. However we were not equipped with the necessary expertise to do this in the allocated time. So instead we created static models incorporating Craig’s screens based on Yeats’s own stages designs. Time-constraints meant that we would only be able to create a sophisticated model of one play. We determined that creating evidence-based models of two other plays would be a valuable addition to the project in that they would help contextualise our model of The Hour-Glass. These models have been designed based on real sketches, and the screens that feature in them are informed by our secondary reading (for example their colour and height), and as such are valid 3D models (albeit that they are less complex) which provide a new way for our audiences to re-interpret and re-imagine both the plays and their scenography. In addition, it is worth noting that each model can be downloaded which means that users can work with the, to create their own more advanced models.
A note on our play selection:
We decided to concentrate on the stage design for three plays in particular. The rationale for the selection of each play is outlined below:
- The Hour-Glass (W.B. Yeats, 1911) This play quickly became the primary focus of our project. This particular play was chosen for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the first play to be performed in the old Abbey using Craig’s screens. Another reason we chose this play was the fact that it was actually rewritten to incorporate the screens (read more about that here). And yet another factor which influenced our decision to select this play was because Yeats’s sketches for the stage design still survive (they have been reproduced in a number of publications). We decided that by creating a model of this stage design and then importing it into a pre-existing model of the old Abbey Stage would allow us to present the scenography within the context of the architecture of the theatre, thus providing a new approach to Craig’s scenography. Our secondary reading and research on Craig and his design principles led us to conclude that lighting was of the utmost importance for him. With that in mind, we decided to incorporate a lighting element into our visualisation. Click here to view 3D model and read more about how we created it here.
- The Deliverer (Lady Gregory, 1911) This play was selected because it was the second play to be performed in the old Abbey Theatre using Craig’s screen. And again, a sketch by Yeats’s of the stage design is accessible, and easy to use for modelling. Click here to view the 3D model and read more about how we created it here.
- Deirdre (W.B. Yeats, 1907) We felt that providing a model of at least one other poetic drama by Yeats’s would help contextualise our visualisation of The Hour-Glass. Deirdre was selected because sketches for its stage design (again by Yeats) are easy to access. You can view our 3D model and read more about how we created it on this blog site.
Credit is due to classmate Freya for assistance in project conceptualization and for research / technical advice and assistance. Additional credit is also due to Gary Byrne for his artistic direction regarding the application of lighting in the production of rendered images for the digital model of The Hour-Glass play.