Graduate Research Papers


Graduate Research Paper (UNI Access Only)


The purpose of this research paper is to present the design process of the set design of Desdemona--- a play about a handkerchief by Paula Vogel. This paper is based on my own experience as a beginning set designer. The research paper comprises three interrelated parts of the pre-production period, the production period and the post-production period. Through the sections my feelings and opinions are included and visual aids are added to help display the process.

Othello, by William Shakespeare, and Desdemona, by Paula Vogel were produced by Theatre UNI in the Bertha Martin Theatre April 9 through 25, 1999. The plays were produced in repertory with separate casts, design teams and running crews. The production processes for each play were closely interrelated.

There are three characters of Desdemona: Desdemona, Emilia, and Bianca. Desdemona is Othello's wife from a very upper class family. Emilia is Iago's wife as a working woman, and Bianca is an unmarried prostitute on Cyprus. The play takes place in the backroom of the palace on Cyprus. Emilia happens to pick up a handkerchief, which Othello had presented to Desdemona as a token of his love. Searching for the lost handkerchief Desdemona visits the backroom where Emilia works. While they are talking, the secret of Desdemona's sexual life is revealed. Desdemona and Emilia confess that they want to escape the male-dominating society and be free from their married lives.

The director of Desdemona, Dr. Cynthia Goatley and I agreed to envision a small space implying a prison for the set design of Desdemona. The production of Desdemona is non-realistic in many ways. Through my set design, I intended to indicate two contrasting conditions of social status. The symbolic significance of the doors, echoes working class and upper class status of the play's characters. In addition, the set design of Desdemona includes "falling" imagery originating in set designer, Leonard Curtis's design for Othello, because "falling" coincides with the thematic and destructive image of Desdemona. My research focused on the Venetian period in Cyprus, the citadel ofFamagusta, city on Cyprus and some visual images evocative of mood. After drawing rough sketches, I made white models. White models were useful to determine the spatial relationships between design elements of the Desdemona design, and those of Othello since they had to share a same space. When I drafted the design for Desdemona, I had difficulties in estimating the actual space, but those were solved with the help of actors and my scenic advisor. The material for the textured wall surfaces of the Desdemona set was 2" extruded polystyrene insulation board. Texturing the walls was a crucial work for the construction of the Desdemona set. Dark gray was the basic color for the walls to represent the dark prison look. The set, including set-dressing, was almost finished before the first technical rehearsal. When Desdemona was performed the reaction of the audience was satisfactory.

In conclusion, the research paper explores the learning process of set design. I have learned much through the design process. Especially I realized that theatre is a synthetic art

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Department of Theatre


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