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Devising Drama: Creating A Pre-Production Checklist For Your Performance

If you are devising a drama production for GCSE or A Level, your exam performance is likely to take place near the end of the third academic term. This means you will typically have around 12-14 weeks to develop, rehearse and perform your play. The following checklist can therefore be used as a rough guide, helping to make sure everything in the run up to your big performance goes as smoothly as possible.

Casting

You might have the freedom to choose your own cast, or you might be put into your groups by your teacher or tutor. Either way, the success of your production will rely on others. This means you will need to think about:

  • The key deadlines you need to hit as a team
  • Creating a rehearsal schedule everyone can stick to

Developing a concept and script

After casting, you will need to develop a story. Your teacher or tutor will probably provide a stimulus such as a piece of music or a picture from which to develop a concept and script. Or, you might need to create something from scratch. Although your story may change during development, this means you need to:

  • Develop a basic concept – the beginning, middle, and end of your story
  • Decide who in your group will play what roles
  • Establish the setting and time and period of your piece
  • Talk about structure and narrative style
  • Devise dramatic techniques to help emphasise important plot points
  • Start thinking about production design that will bring your play to life

Sets, props and costumes

Sets, props and costumes help create the style and tone of the whole production. Although it’s a good idea to keep things simple, when choosing what set, props and costumes to use, you will need to consider: 

  • What mood and atmosphere you’re trying to convey
  • Producing suitable scenery such as theatre drapes
  • Finding furniture, scenery and props that will help set the scene
  • Making or sourcing costumes
  • Who will be responsible for moving props
  • Historical accuracy – research the where and when your takes place in

If you are taking a performance support option, you will also need to:

  • Think about scene changes and whether props/scenery will need moving
  • Take accurate measurements of the performance area
  • Create a scale model of the design, using painted cardboard and grid paper
  • Evaluate sight lines so the audience will be able to see as much as possible
  • Produce sketches and notes of your set design process
  • Consider how difficult props are to use and how much practice the cast will need using them

Sound effects and music

Sound effects and music are an important part of building tension and creating the mood and atmosphere of your play. In the pre-production phase, you will need to:

  • Decide what sound effects will enhance a production
  • Determine how you are going to source those sounds and when they will come in
  • Agree the volume sound effects should be played at
  • Create cue plans for all sound effects and music
  • Choose who is going to operate the sound effects and music
  • Find suitable equipment to play sound effects and live music

Lighting

Lighting will help create the theatrical illusion that draws the audience into your story. In the pre-production phase, you will need to decide: 

  • What type of lighting you can use to support the script
  • What areas of the stage your actors will use or occupy
  • What colours you should use to convey different ideas or emotions
  • Timings and how lighting changes can enhance music or sound

If you are taking a performance support option, you will also need to:

  • Determine whether any large set items you use will create unintended shadows
  • Choose what types of lighting you will use; spot, Fresnel, flood, strobe
  • Create a plan for light positioning and the use of barn doors, gobos and filters
  • Draft an adapted version of the script with added lighting cues
  • Decide whether to use blackouts or lighting transitions for scene changes

For more specific advice about lighting a play, take a look at our resources Stage Lighting and the Psychology of Colour and Theatre Light Explained,

Rehearsals

To make sure everything runs smoothly for the big performance, you will need to create a well-thought-out rehearsal schedule. In the pre-production phase, you will need to:

  • Do a dress rehearsal with the correct costumes, set and props
  • Rehearse in the space that you will be using for your performance
  • Do a run through in front of friends or classmates, asking for feedback
  • Use feedback and self-assessment to improve your production

If you are taking a performance support option, you will also need to:

  • Examine audience sight lines for the stage and set you are using
  • Run a technical rehearsal for light and sound, using cue sheets

Good luck!

Everyone at Stage Electrics wishes you good luck with your performance. To learn more, take a look at our educational resources section; packed full of worksheets, quizzes, and guides, we are here to help you with your drama studies and other aspects of stage design and performing arts.


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