Every year, the UBC Musical Theatre Troupe puts on two main productions. Their most recent production, "The Theory of Relativity," took place during reading week of last term. While many students spent their time off with family and friends or with homework and projects, I chose to spend my time off painting, building and assembling a 18’ by 22’ theatre set alongside my fellow designer Sam Cheng and the rest of the set crew.
I joined the set team in my first year at UBC by coincidence when I was participating in workshops held by the club. Out of all the departments, set design interested me the most, with its power to realize designs into tangible pieces in the physical performance space. Sprinkling more joy to the audience using visual elements, I recall the cheers when I was part of the production of "A Chorus Line" in the spring of 2022, when we were able to bring live performances back from the pandemic. Since then, designing, building sets and bonding with the theatre production team became my creative outlet to balance my life in school and work.
This year, I decided to join the creative team and take on the designer role for the fall production, after assisting set design in the past couple of productions. Not only did I want to challenge myself, but I was also compelled by the storyline — there are multiple short stories happening in the town, which eventually forms a community from their shared experiences. With the interconnected apartment buildings, stores and cables, we sought to visualize the intertwining stories and community of characters in the production. I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with another talented designer, Sam Cheng, who provided a lot of valuable and visually appealing ideas, designs and technical knowledge for us as a team to synthesize the set backdrop safely from scratch.
The success of a musical production always comes down to teamwork and coordination. Aside from crafting the sets, I found that the set design could not have been possible without the team helping with sourcing materials, financial budgeting and scheduling to ensure our set pieces were delivered to the stage on time. The set build crew team, Ashton Ying — our assistant set designer, Freya Woolgrove — our technical director, Sam, and I, all poured in immense amounts of creativity and time since the beginning of the term. Sleepless nights, three build sessions a week for two months and the work that went in during technical week, all paid off in the spectacular scenic backdrop.
Once the set piece was hung and lights were in place, I was drawn into the atmosphere of the story instantly, matching with what I had visualized in the design. Witnessing the stage management, crew, creative team, cast, band and marketing team members shining in the production with their hard work elevated the sense of achievement I felt after completing the set. I am very grateful I could work with such an amazing team.