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An Approach to Theatrical Design

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Joshua Langman


Paperback (Other formats: E-book)
378 pages, 5 x 8, 4 illustrations


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About the Book

A groundbreaking philosophy of design for the stage
Standby proposes a practical philosophy of contemporary theatrical design that addresses all design disciplines, all theatrical collaborators, and all forms of theatre, from the traditional to the avant-garde. In a field that is too often dismissed as purely technical, Joshua Langman celebrates design as a transformative force with the power to elevate a performance and enable it to resonate beyond the bounds of its physical production. Beginning with the proposition that design contributes essential layers of meaning to an experience, Standby argues for a unique approach centered on the creation of revelatory theatrical moments.
In a mission to illuminate the soul of the craft, Langman investigates the purposes of design, details the elements of a production concept, uncovers the mechanics of creating meaning, explores the relationship of theatrical design to fine art and art history, and offers practical guidance on designing productions. He also considers what has changed as designers have embraced digital technology and suggests fifteen concrete methods for preserving the magic of live theatre in a digital age. Blending scholarship and storytelling, personal experience and contrarian wisdom, Standby challenges theatre-makers to harness the rich dramatic potential of theatrical design.

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Joshua Langman has designed lighting, sound, and projections for Ensemble Studio Theatre, Summer Shorts, La MaMa ETC, the Jim Henson Foundation, singer/songwriter Cidny Bullens, Brooklyn Gypsies, the 52nd Street Project, and many others. He originated the theatrical design program at Talent Unlimited High School in Manhattan, and he has lectured and facilitated workshops on design at Carnegie Hall and other venues. Langman is a faculty member at the Kean University Theatre Conservatory, where he teaches theatrical design. Standby is his first book.


Standby is nothing short of groundbreaking, with inspiring and practical insights given at every turn. Joshua Langman has achieved something extraordinary: he shows us step by step how mastering the technical craft of theatrical design is merely the beginning—the real work lives inside an open invitation to create magic on the stage. As Langman explains: ‘Designers are poets masquerading as mechanics.’ After reading Standby, it is impossible to see this sacred calling as anything less.”—Amanda Gronich, dramaturg, The Laramie Project

“Langman’s very readable schematic approach to design is a valuable tool for young designers learning how to approach the form.”—Beowulf Boritt, Tony Award–winning Broadway scenic designer
“Langman dives into theatrical design with a surgeon’s level of precision, dissecting all of the steps of the process and laying out a virtual road map from conception to completion. Any literary arsenal of texts on design will greatly benefit from its inclusion.”—Cory Pattak, creator of in 1: the podcast 

“Writing in an easy storytelling style, [Langman] includes his personal experiences and descriptive examples of his amazing theatrical designs. . . . An excellent read for anyone aspiring to be or currently working as a theatrical designer.”—K. Wagner, CHOICE