Floor Plans are to Blocking, as Renderings are to The Play
When reading Henry V, I found it extremely helpful to visualize the physical spaces that the scenes were taking place in. Just as one would image each individual person speaking, I imagined how the characters interacted in their environments. The visualization of space helps me to keep the characters conversations clear. I imagine each character walking around while in conversation, or each character physically walking out a room when exiting a scene. When writing Henry V, I’m sure Shakespeare had an idea of what he wanted his space to look like on stage. Shakespeare had to use blocking and stage directions to communicate his artistic vision. Although the stage was probably different than what he imaged in his head, Shakespeare used his set and stage directions to create a similar scene. In the same way, an interior designer or architect can have an amazing image in their head, but they have to be able to communicate that vision to the client, or to a contractor, so the vision can physically exist. Adobe AutoCAD and Adobe 3ds Max Studio are two soft wares that are employed by interior designers to help communicate a space. Floor plans are meant to have a 2-dimensional qualities that are detailed and easy to read, where as a 3ds Max rendering is taking that space and making it 3-dimensional. I like to think of floor plans as stage directions or blocking.
Similar to a blocking, floor plans have their limitations with communicating. Blocking is a way for the actor to understand what is happening in the text, but stage directions are usually hard to understand for a regular person reading a script. The actor takes what is written in the text and communicates with an audience. Ultimately, it is the job of the actor to convey what they read in their scripts and stage directions. The actor reads the directions and physically acts them out to be seen by an audience. Floor plans are also extremely technical, and they require an understanding of a graphic language. It is the job of the interior designer or architect to read the floor plan make the 2-dimensional ideas a reality in space and time. Floor plans, like blocking, can be very detailed; but ultimately, it is the job of the designer to communicate the ideas on paper to the client, customer, or in an actors case, an audience.
My small group performed Act 3 Scene 6 from Henry V. We were able to act out the scene because of the the stage directions we were given. I decided to create a physical space for this scene. Like all of my interior design projects, I started by creating a floor plan. The first image below (figure 1) shows a floor plan I created to look like a portion of King Henry’s castle. Although the picture might look like simple lines, each line is meant to communicate a shape in three dimensional space. The floor plan shows the room holding the king’s thrown. The lines in front of the chair are created to communicate stairs. The stairs are in place to show the hierarchy of the king compared to all others around him. He will be physically elevated as he sits and talks to Montjoy and Fluellen. The thick black lines are meant to communicate a hallway and a bridge leading to the king’s thrown room. I knew I needed to display a bridge, since the scene begins with Gower saying “How now, Captain Fluellen? Come you from the bridge?” (3.6.1-2). The king’s thrown is also extremely over-exaggerated in size. This is an aspect that might not be visible in a floor plan. There is also a separate hallway to the left of the kings chair. This hallway is meant to be used for King Henry to enter the scene when he enters. His entrance his communicated in a stage direction that says “Drum and Colors. Enter the King of England and his poor Soldiers, and Gloucester” (3.6). Other details of the room were created by me, such as the windows on the walls flanking his thrown. These windows were placed since there was not electricity.
Once a floor plan is understood by a designer, the physical space is born. 3-dimensional renderings are more so similar to the play itself. 3-dimensional renderings are meant to show a client the space you have created for them. Just like the play, renderings are easy to understand. It does not take any special talent to be able to understand a physical scene, just as the audience does not need an understanding of stage directions to be able to watch the play. Figure 2 is an example of a 3-dimensional rendering. Floor plans and perspectives are called orthographic images, which means they directly correlate the dimensions but make it 3-dimensional. The image in figure two is an exact comparison to the floor plan. In the same way stage directions transfer to the stage, this rendering is a product of the floor plan and the designers imaginary space they have created.
The rendering shows the exact set up as the floor plan, however it is hard to communicate every single detail. In Act 3 Scene 6 King Henry has a long speech as he is talking to Montjoy. The speech on stage during the play has its limitations. The audience might not completely understand everything that is being said. In the same way, the rendering does not capture everything that the floor plan does. The rendering has its limitations because of how much the eye can consume at certain angles. Just as an actor has to do his or her best job of communicating the script, the designer must take the limitations and make the best possible product for the consumer. As long as most of the ideas are communicated, both audiences of these works can have an understanding of what is happening in the scene and in the space that was designed for them.
One of the hardest talents to master as an artist is your communication with your audience. Ultimately, if the artist, play writer, or designer wants their piece to be a success, he or she has to effectively communicate the creative ideas swirling around in their head. All mediums can be mastered, but the productivity of their work depends are their ability to demonstrate their thoughts. Yes, the success of Shakespeare’s plays comes from his incredible ability to write scripts, but it also can be attributed to his diligent stage directions for his actors. In the same way, any artist or designer hopes to take their tools and communicate their fantastic creative ideas to their audience.
Folger Shakespeare Library. Henry V from Folger Digital Texts. Ed. Barbara Mowat, Paul Werstine, Michael Poston, and Rebecca Niles. Folger Shakespeare Library, 7 February, 2020.