Design for Performance 2020


grand-finale-al-carousel-desktop-hero-1133x628Image: Grand Finale by Hofesh Shechter

Course coordinator: Meg Rollandi

Assignment # 1

Introduction to Contemporary Performance Practices: The Performance Arcade (an odyssey in twenty ## parts)

Project outline: This assignment introduces you to performance design and live art practices by focusing on the development and presentation of a work for The Performance Arcade 2021


– a note from the festival director and creator Sam Trubridge

“The Performance Arcade is an acclaimed live art festival on Wellington Waterfront. Every year it is experienced by 60-90,000 people. Audiences come for an exciting and diverse program of art, live music, and performance works. These diverse projects are installed within a special architectural arrangement of shipping containers that are stacked and installed together to create an innovative space for performance and arts presentation. This miniature festival offers new encounters between artists and public, creating a vibrant hub that activates the city and exposes communities to new ideas and new cultural perspectives. The free admission and waterfront location makes it accessible to a broad community, developing empowered audiences and participants in the creative and cultural life of Wellington city. It has been running every year since 2011.”

Project Brief:

For this assignment you will work on preparing a proposal for this event for one of the two following programmes:

THE CONTAINER SERIES: a performance or installation work located within (or using) a shipping container. Containers come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

THE WATERFRONT SERIES: a work that occupies an outdoor site, multiple sites, or moves around the waterfront environment.

A critical aspect of this assignment is how you develop your concept for a live encounter with performance, through your use of body, space, light, costume, object, material, sound, and audience. To help with this you will each respond to the work of a significant practitioner (your ‘Artist Model’) from the history of performance design and performance art practices. From this starting point you will work through a series of tasks and design workshops in order to arrive at your final presentation.


ATTENDANCE: There will be one three hour class each week over the six weeks of this assignment. Attendance is necessary at each class.

PRESENTATION: In our final class you will each present your final concept using Powerpoint imagery, material experiments, constructions, models, video, and live performance.  You will use some of these methods in order to best communicate your ideas. The presentation should include these minimum requirements:

  • 2 slides introducing your artist model, and their work
  • 1 slide that articulates your response to your artist model and selected Performance Arcade programme
  • 3 slides showing images from your development process and experiments
  • an image locating performance in site, showing it on the waterfront environment
  • five images showing what happens in the performance
  • a link to your blog

PROCESS WORK:  Research, development, testing  – process work – for this project needs to be documented and posted to your blog. 


Learning Outcomes for Assignment One

  1. Demonstrate understanding of the relationships between performers, design, space, and audience in performance practice. (Graduate Profile: Connectedness – Whanaungatanga A3)
  2. Apply exploratory and transformative thinking to generate ideas, proposals, and creative works in response to performance project challenges. (Graduate Profile: Creativity – Toi C1)
  3. Reflect on and evaluate own work and the work of other performance designers and artists. (Graduate Profile: Creativity – Toi C2)
  4. Source and utilise information in a variety of forms and contexts to support their work process. (Graduate Profile: Understanding – Matauranga E4)

Assessment Criteria for Assignment One

Your project will be assessed according to:

  1. Your understanding and response to your artist model: theories, style, practice, works, and historical/contemporary context.
  2. A proposal that addresses makes use of the ‘live encounter’ between performer, audience, design, and space. Note: sometimes the space, design, and audience becomes a performer when there is no other performer present.
  3. The successful manipulation of body, space, light, object, and costume in order to create a performative experience and event.
  4. Your ability to express your ideas fluently and clearly, as well as the quality of the presentation imagery and model.

Week 1

-Introduction – performance art practice + performance design

-Introduce the brief

-Introduction to artist models, discuss performance practices and strategies

Independent study for next Tuesday: 

  1. Research your artist model
  2. Prepare a 10 slide Pecha Kucha style presentation of your artist model. 10 slides/30 seconds per slide!
  3. Identify a performance strategy that your artist engages with. Create 5 performance responses to this strategy. Reminder these don’t have to be ‘the’ or your body performing – objects, materials, phenomena also perform. These also don’t have to be direct documentation performance they can also be the results or artefacts of performance. Documentation is a performance in itself.
  4. Source 1 video of a performance work that you know of or that you find that is interesting in some way. Add the link to your blog.


Week 2

  • Pecha Kucha’s 
  • Video performance
  • Scores, topics, actions 2:1
  • Strategies exercise from last week

Independent study:

Write your own Yoko Ono/Grapefruit inspired performance score that relates to your artist’s practice or strategies you have observed in research. 

Developing your idea: using a combination found imagery, your drawings and text address the following elements of your performance proposal: duration (how long it is it, does it repeat, is it scheduled), journey (does it move around, if inside a container how does it transform over a day, hour, the whole Arcade), what happens (is someone performing, are the audience watching or participating…).

Source 5 precedent works or artists relevant to your current performance proposal idea.

Ensure you document both of these tasks on your blog!


Week 3

  • Site analysis – Taranaki Wharf 
  • Video examples of performance
  • Precedents
  • Developing your proposal
  • Testing at 1:1


Continue to develop your proposal. For next week, aim to create 2 images that express your proposal in its current form. Consider the way that you are representing your ideas, what are appropriate visual representation methods? What are the key moments in your proposal that you need to communicate?

1:1 testing of a selected element of your proposal. 


The blog has not been updated beyond this point – everything below is out of date…

Assignment 2: Performance Design – words to worlds

“Yet design artefacts  – whether objects, materials, occasions, environments, or still and moving images- are inextricably bound to performance through notions of embodiment, action and events. Within them stories are told, forces are harnessed and roles are played out.” 

Hannah, Dorita, and Olav Harsløf. Performance Design. Museum Tusculanum, 2008.

Project outline:

For this second assignment you will create a performance design for Ella Hickson’s The Writer. This task requires that you translate the play text from words and ideas into a live performance event. This translation involves more than just speaking the text but asks that you as the performance designer to propose the world that this version of the play takes place in.

The tools at your disposal – space, objects, costume, time, light, body, sound – can be arranged and rearranged infinite times over to shift the audience’s experience of the play. Each element present on stage carries meaning and function, as the performance designer you are able to manipulate our experience of these elements both individually and in combination with each other.

Project deliverables:

To communicate your performance design you will create the following:

_A storyboard of presentation quality images (short videos). This should be a minimum of 10 images and address each of the 5 sections in the play at least once. Your selected images should communicate key moments in the play as they relate to your overall performance design concept. These images can be created using a combination of whichever medium you choose.

_A 200 words concept overview statement. This statement should identify the key themes you have identified in the work and describe the arching narrative of the performance design.

_5min mixed media staging of a section of the play. This does not need to include dialogue, or a performer ‘acting’. You may choose to represent a key element of your design, using this mixed media staging as a way to describe or capture the essence/a sense of how the work might feel. These stagings will be realised at 1:1 and presented to the class in Week 12. 

Project key dates:

Week 8, Monday 16th: Site visit (time to be agreed on in class)

Week 9: Interim

Week 12: Presentation and hand-in

Google Drive link for shared resources, BATS plans etc

Week 7

  • Introduce new brief
  • Introduce the play
  • Introduce site
  • Precedent examples of text to performance
  • Design matrix

Site visit to BATS Theatre Monday, 4.15pm!

Independent study for week 8:

  • Complete reading and then close reading of the play.
  • Concept development: research, prepare working statement
  • Complete design matrix


Week 8

  • Discuss the play
  • Week 8 presentation
  • Watch party
  • 1:1 catch ups

Independent study for week 9

  • Complete design matrix
  • Concept statement
  • 3 scene proposals
  • Daffodil pitch

Videos from the session today are in the google drive folder – link further up this page


Week 9

Review three scene pitches.

Independent Study:

Draft storyboard presentation (10 images), at least 3 images/elements completed to presentation standard.

1x video example of water created on stage


Week 10

Review water videos…

Interim presentation exercise

Workshop mixed media stagings

Update blog links

Independent Study:

2 more images towards your storyboard to presentation standard.

-Be specific, use the resources (plans and sections), consider sight-lines, what is an appropriate rendering style, what elements of your proposal require detail or more detail, a storyboard is not necessarily a static image…

Draft version of mixed media staging, this should include at least 1x 1:1 test, detailed storyboard (more than sketches) including reference and research imagery.


Week 11

  • Review updated storyboard
  • Review draft mixed media staging

Submission requirements:

Stagings – presentations and documentation Week 12.  Digital submission via Stream of all other requirements Friday 25th October, Week 13, 5pm.

We will be starting presentations at 1.30, please be ready to start then!

Last modified: August 3, 2020