One of the biggest and most common problems I’ve run into over the years is not allowing enough time for creating and building a set. As I said in another post, the process is very straightforward, but each step takes a certain amount of time to do correctly.
Here is a sample schedule, allowing adequate time for the set designer to work with the director and prepare design drawings and shop drawings.
The first few weeks allow for a kickoff meeting as well as two or more subsequent meetings to review the progress of the designs (set, lights, costumes, and so forth), and develop them into the final form. During this period the director will be thinking about his or her vision for the show and finalizing it as the designs develop, helping to tie the whole production together.
Once the designs have been finalized, the set designer can prepare the construction drawings, painters’ elevations, and other deliverables. Once these are in the shop, the TD can take a few days to review the drawings, ask questions, organize the build, and order materials.
Then the actual construction period starts, which includes fabrication, painting, installation, rigging, and other tasks. I’m showing four weeks in the sample above, but five or six weeks is a more realistic period, especially if the crew is made up of students or volunteers who only work on the show part-time. The worst that can happen by allowing extra time is that the work will be completed earlier (in relation to opening night), which is a great problem to have. You may want to look at How long does it really take? for more on this.
And let’s not forget an immutable fact of life: Murphy’s Law. Since opening night is locked in, it’s always a good idea to allow for things taking longer than we expect. In addition, the designer(s) may be working on more than one production at the same time, which is often the case with professional designers.
I’ve seen cases where the TD prepares a schedule, but then keeps to to himself like it were a secret. This doesn’t help anyone, or the show itself. The production schedule should be posted prominently where everyone can see it, and refer to it, and keep track of the progress.