My name is Paige Hathaway and I am the set designer for The High Ground, written by Nathan Alan Davis and directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian. A few things to know about me: I’m a freelance designer based in the D.C. area, I went to grad school for set design at The University of Maryland, and I cook a mean ratatouille.

Set design is a combination of everything I love…architecture, art history, art installation, sculpture, plus I get to collaborate with amazing people to tell stories that are worth telling.

Step 1: Research

The High Ground takes place on Standpipe Hill in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I did extensive online research on the hill currently and the hill at the time of the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921.

Research can also include artwork, art installation, interior design, etc. It all depends on the needs of the show! I like to use Pinterest for finding images.

Step 2: Sketching

After discussing research with the team, I create a virtual model of the theater and sketch out some ideas for the set. 

Step 3: Rendering

Sketching through my ideas, I’ll do a more thorough rendering using a detailed virtual model and Photoshop. I often do several versions through the process as the team collaborates on the design.

Step 4a: Drafting

Once the director, other designers, and I agree on a final rendering, I’ll begin drafting the show! I use a program called Vectorworks to create a ground plan, section, and elevations of the design. The scene shop and technical director will take these drawings to help build the set.

Step 4b: Paint Elevations

I create Photoshop elevations of all the scenic pieces—this is to help communicate the design to the scenic painter who will be painting the show.

Step 4c: Scale Model

For some shows, I’ll build a scale model to communicate the design to the shop, director, and actors. (I love to build models.)  

I didn’t get to build a model for The High Ground, but we do have a diorama of Standpipe Hill as part of the set built by the incredible Arena Stage Prop Shop.

Properties Assistant Grace Trudeau takes us through the creation of the Standpipe Hill set model used in the production!

Step 5: Emails, Emails, Emails

After sending out the drafting, paint elevations, and any information for the props of the show,  I’ve become an email answering machine! I answer any questions that the team or shops may have about the set.

Step 6: Technical Rehearsals and Previews

Nehassaiu deGannes (Victoria/Vicky/Vee/The Woman in Black) and Phillip James Brannon (Soldier) in “The High Ground” running February 10 through April 2 at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. Photo by Margot Schulman.

After the actors, director, and stage managers have rehearsed the show in the rehearsal hall, we move to the stage and put all the elements together. 

Step 7: Opening Night!

The stage is set for an incredible run. Come see The High Ground through April 2 to appreciate the full scale and beauty of this production.