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Drama: Scenic Design: Overview

This guide..

Basic resources for scene and stage design.


How to Find Information in the Library Catalog (Cameo)
Try the following broad search terms.

  • Installation and Art
  • Stage Setting and Scenery
  • Set Designers
  • Scene Painting
  • Stage History
  • Stage Lighting
  • Stage Machinery
  • Stage Props
  • Stage Management
  • Theater Architecture
  • Theater Pictorial Works
  • Theaters Design and Construction
  • Theaters Special Effects
  • Theater Production and Direction

Browsing Locations in Hunt Library
Note that the following call numbers can be located in various physical locations. For example,
Arts Reference non-circulating area (FA-REF-4), the regular sized books (STACKS-4), the oversize books (OVRSZQ-4), and the folio books (OVRSZF-4).There are many exceptions and cross-overs into other areas! Ask for research help when you can't find what you need.

  • PN2085-2096 Dramatic Representation Stage and Accessories
    • PN2085-2086 Stage Management
    • PN2091 Theatre and set design; stage rigging; props
  • Structural emphasis
    • NA6821 (structural emphasis for theatres and set design)
    • TA658.2 Structural Engineering

Browse Journals
Check these journals first:

  • American Theatre
  • Backstage
  • TD&T (Theatre Design and Technology)
  • Theatre Crafts

Reference Resources

Stoddard, Richard. Stage Scenery, Machinery and Lighting: A Guide to Information Sources. Book Tower, Detroit, MI : Gale Research Company, 1977. (International scope).
HUNT FA-REF-4 Z5784 .S8 S79

Theatre Links by Justin Cash



Lacy, Robin Thurlow. A Biographical Dictionary of Sceneographers: 500 B.C. to 1900. A.D. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1990
HUNT FA-REF-4 PN2096 .A1 L33 1990

Mikotowicz, Thomas J. Theatrical Designers: An International Biographical Dictionary. New York, Westport and London: Greenwood Press, 1992.
HUNT FA-REF-4 PN2096 .A1 AM54 1992
Good general bibliography and further reading for each biographical entry.
Appendices: Chronological List of Designers 84 B.C.- 1970's; Designers Listed by Country of Birth; Periodicals and Theatre Collections.


Campbell, Gordon, ed. Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006
HUNT FA-REF-4 NK28 .G76 2006 (2 vols.)

Harling, Robert, ed. Studio Dictionary of Design & Decoration. New York: Viking Press, 1973.
HUNT FA-REF-4 NK1165 .S78 1973

Lounsbury, Warren C. Theatre Backstage from A to Z. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1999.
HUNT FA-REF-4 PN2091 .M3 L68 1999
A dictionary of terms regarding technical aspects of lighting and scenery.



The Entertainment Sourcebook. Association of Theatrical Artists and Craftspeople. New York : Applause.
HUNT FA-REF-4 PN2091 .S8 N43 2005, 2007
A directory of resources for equipment, supplies, stage machinery, props and costume.

The Character Shop
A special effects company specializing in animatronics, makeup effects, puppets, and robotics - they created the Budweiser Frogs! Site includes glossary of special effects terms.

Computer Scenographics Studio (Darwin Reid Payne, Wake Forest University)
The author of The Scenographic Imagination; Theory and Craft of the Scenographic Model; Computer Scenographics offers an illustrated tour and analysis of computer generated scenography; includes a "Research Library" for gathering information for scenographic projects.

Erik Hart's Prop Agenda
Making and finding props for theatre, film, and hobbies

Glerum, Jay O. Stage Rigging Handbook. 2nd ed. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1997.
HUNT FA-REF-4 PN2091 .M3 G54 1997

Izenour, George C. Theater Technology. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. 2nd edition
HUNT FA-REF-4 NA6821 .I947 1996
Addresses technical aspects of theater architecture, stage machinery, lighting and sets.

Izenour, George C.Theater Design. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. 2nd ed.
HUNT FA-REF-4 NA6821 .I94 1996
Addresses theater architecture and acoustics.

Knots on the Web (Peter Suber)
More than you ever wanted to know about knots.

Sweet, Harvey. Handbook of Scenery, Properties and Lighting. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1989.
HUNT FA-REF-4 PN2091 .S8 S86 1989 2 Vols.

Parker, Wilford Oren. Scene Design and Stage Lighting. 8th ed. Belmont, Calif. : Wadsworth, 2003
FA-REF-4 PN2091 .S8 P3 2003

Images and Streaming Video

Link  to the CMU Libraries' Visual Resources Collections page to find many image resources online related to theatre.

For a start you may want to try
ARTSTOR includes the Historic Scenic Collection with 2,800 images of late 19th to early 20th century scenic design from American operatic theaters.

New York Theatre, 1919-1961 [microform] : 26,000 photographs from the Vandamm Collection in The New York Public Library, Library and Museum of the Performing Arts. Teaneck, N.Y. : Somerset House ; Cambridge [England] : Chadwyck-Healey, 1980.
MFICHE-3 792 N532 (Hunt Library, 3rd floor microfiche)
Includes captioned photographs of 900 stage productions.

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre: Virtual Tour
Interactive panoramic views of the stage, galleries and yard.

Atkinson, W. Patrick, compiler. Theatrical Design in the Twentieth Century: An Index to Photographic Reproductions of Scenic Designs. Westport, Conn. and London: Greenwood Press, 1996.
FA-REF-4 PN2091 .S8 T47 1996
This is an index that leads you to resources that contain reproductions.

VADS: The Online Resource for the Visual Arts
Collections comprising over 100,000 images that are freely available and copyright cleared for use in learning, teaching and research in the UK." Includes the Learning Index, a series of teaching resources based in the collection by subject specialists and lecturers.
Especially useful for theatre are the Central Saint Martins Museum & Study Collection which includes the theatre design collection, the Constance Howard Resource and Research Centre in Textiles:
Material Collection and Slide Collection, John Johnson Collection of Trades and Professions, London College of Fashion - College Archive, Oxford Portraits (various media/leaders in all professions in the UK); Textiles Collection: University for the Creative Arts at Farnham, with a number of other collections focusing on design, history, posters, artists, architecture and more.

Streaming Video Databases
Digital Theatre Plus
Recent British theatre productions streamed in high definition; additional educational content. One year trial.
Offers filmed concerts performed by today’s greatest names in classical music, archive movies, inspiring documentaries on performers and composers, educational programs, and master classes.

Met Opera on Demand
Provides unlimited access to more than 450 extraordinary Met performances.
High-quality films of full-length performances by current provocative artists working in dance, theater, music and other forms.

Dance in Video and documentaries in streaming video with influential performers and companies of the 20th century. Includes ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, experimental, improvisational dance, and forerunners of the forms and the pioneers of modern concert dance;
search, browse, cite or bookmark videos to the moment; make custom clips, annotate and share them.

Opera in Video
...important opera performances, captured on video through staged productions, interviews and documentaries; selections are based on a work’s importance to the operatic canon.

Theatre in Video
...definitive performances and documentaries in streaming video with leading actors, playwrights and directors covering a wide range of 20th century theatre history. Includes contemporary revivals of classic works, television broadcasts of New York productions, experimental performances and more;
search, browse and bookmark scenes, monologues, and staging examples to a link that can be shared.

World Newsreels Online
Captures full runs of many of the key international newsreels produced during the early twentieth century. Newsreels are in English, French and Japanese.


ESTA Foundation: Essential Skills for the Entertainment Technician

IATSE International (The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada, AFL-CIO, CLC)
The labor union representing technicians, artisans and craftspersons in the entertainment industry, including live theatre, film and television production.

OISTAT (The International Organization of Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians)
An organization which maintains an international exchange of the knowledge and ractice of the following disciplines: Scenography, Theatre Architecture and Technology together with their relevant and related areas of theatrical technical development.


Plasa: Worldwide Technical Resources for the Entertainment Industries

Set Decorators Society of America
Professional network and national non-profit founded in 1993 to support the work and research of film and television set designers. Includes resources, news and events, set design spotlights, and SetDecor Online (back issues of the Society's journal).

United Scenic Artists Local 829
Information of interest to the members of the International Brotherhood of Painters and Allied Trades.

USITT (The United States Institute for Theatre Technology)
An association of design, production, and technology professionals in the performing arts and entertainment industry. Includes classified ads and links to other sites.