Posting Date: February 17, 2011

Kennesaw State theatre professor publishes textbook
Ming Chen composed book for theatrical design

By Megan Roberts


Ming Chen, Kennesaw State University professor in the Department of Theatre, Performance Studies & Dance, recently published a textbook, "Visual Literacy for Theatre." At KSU, Chen teaches a class about the fundamentals of theatrical design to students in the department, including prospective designers, directors, actors and stage managers and has spent much of her teaching career pulling lessons from various textbooks in order to make up a good curriculum. She realized that none of the books she found were devoted to this group of readers. Now, she has published a textbook that encompasses all the elements she considers necessary for the students on the subject.

“I think all students deserve a textbook that is customized for them,” Chen explains. “This
book is especially written for theatre majors.” Chen defines her textbook as a workbook for both teachers and students. She also attests that the multitude of pictures in her book is helpful to students. “I think our students need to see a lot of examples of good design. Sometimes when you just talk about design it doesn’t make sense to them, so you have to have good examples.” Her book has hundreds of color illustrations of theatrical designs, making it different from other textbooks she has used. The book shows students examples by other theatre design students as well as those done by professional designers, including those from popular Broadway plays such as "The Lion King."

The textbook is about showing and creating design. “The book not only covers the principles and elements of design, but also shows how the principles and elements were applied to theatrical productions. One specific project focuses on designing a costume on a mannequin plate. “They love it because they can see the immediate result and put their ideas and imagination into the project. It’s fun and, at the same time, it can build their confidence.”

One important aim of this textbook is to help students become excited about visual design. “I
want them to be able to develop a sensibility as well as a visual awareness and at the same
time be excited about doing design.” Chen is aware that many of her students are beginning
theatre design for the first time, so she made some projects in the book easier at the
beginning to boost the student's confidence and to show them that they can succeed.

Chen has already implemented her textbook in her class and is encouraging feedback from other teachers who are also using her book. “I’m proud of it,” Chen says. “It’s one of a kind.”


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