3D Printing Takes the Stage with Theatrical Scenic Design

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For my final project in scenic design class as part of my theatre major, I had designed a table with a stylized hollow center and needed to cut foam using a band saw for my set model. In the process, the foam fed back into the saw, pulling my hand with it. I lost the tips of two fingers. Mercifully, my theatre professor finished the table cuts while I sought medical attention, and the blood was fully masked once I had finished and painted the model for The Misanthrope. Still, it was finals week, and I was also an English major with some of the biggest papers of the year to type up over the course of the week, and down the use of much of my left hand. I wish I’d had a 3D printer in my set shop.

That wish is being granted now, though, for others, as 3D printing has entered the arena of theatrical design. Italy-based WASP, which has made a name for itself through innovative 3D printing projects ranging from gluten-free 3D printed food to casts of Vesuvius victims to an entire 3D printed village, has teamed up with Rome’s Teatro dell’Opera in the company’s latest challenge: scenic design. Fra Diavolo will be opening on October 8, and technology partner WASP is helping to ensure the production is ready for the mainstage.

From mid-April through mid-July, the team at WASP worked to create a 3D printed design based on the show scenographer’s concepts. Fra Diavolo director Giorgio Barberio Corsetti made the decision to use 3D printing as a solution for this production’s approach to set design; his choice was supported by Carlo Fuortes, Superintendent of the Fondazione Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, described by WASP as “deeply confident in using 3D printing for studio and stage design.” Set design for the production is led by Corsetti and Massimo Troncanetti.

“The venture started when the scenographer gave Wasp a 3D printed model of two deformed historic buildings, two large facades with windows and terraces, similar to a Dalí picture: the deformed perception of reality is a central element of the work, which necessarily reflects also in its scenographic structure,” WASP explains of the project.

To meet deadline commitments, always a concern in the theatre, WASP set to work with five of its DeltaWASP 3MT 3D printers. These machines, introduced this past September, are favored for use by designers and architects; theatrical set design requires both disciplines to create accurate scale models for use in a theatre. Working “at full speed” in the warehouse that became the project HQ, the 3D printers put their one-cubic-meter build volumes to use, working with white PLA material to 3D print 223 components for the model.

Work went as smoothly as could be, and by mid-July the hundreds of scene model pieces filled the floor of the warehouse. These were packaged up and sent to Rome for assembly at the Opera House, where they were affixed onto a wooden carrying structure.

“A few small inaccuracies did not compromise the outcome, on the contrary they emphasized the craftsmanship and the special character of the work, and the director welcomed the final result with great satisfaction,” WASP concludes.

As WASP continues to focus on the creation of high-speed 3D printers and accept the challenges put to them, we’re sure to see more collaborations highlighting what their machines are capable of. 3D printing is seeing increasing use in the entertainment business, from box office blockbusters to university theatre costuming. Set design benefits from the architectural complexity and speed of manufacture for which 3D printing is becoming known — as well as from a significantly lessened chance of bodily harm in creation.

Fra Diavolo will run in Rome at Teatro dell’Opera from October 8th through the 21st, led by conductor Rory McDonald. This is billed as a new production, in co-production with Teatro Massimo di Palermo, performed in the original Italian with English subtitles in the Teatro Costanzi. WASP is the official technology partner for this opera in three acts.

Let us know your thoughts in the WASP Theatrical Set Design forum thread at 3DPB.com.

[All images supplied by WASP]

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