Projections: The “New” Big Thing

Out of the four productions that I’ve seen at KCACTF this week, two of them have used projections as a key design element. This isn’t that big of a surprise as projection usage is increasing in popularity in the Theatre world. Projections refer to images being displayed across a surface. This can be used in a variety of ways, such as in backdrops, on a screen, or overtop a set piece. Projections can add aspects to a production that might have been lacking, including quick changes to another setting.

I wanted to interview a younger projection designer to understand how someone of college age views this digital upstart in live Theatre. Luckily, I know a fantastic woman named Ally from the College of Charleston.

Ally Musmeci is a Junior Theatre Major from New Orleans who is double concentrating in Performance and Design. She has previously designed projections for one production and is working as Projection Designer for the upcoming production of She Kills Monsters by Qui Nguyen at the College of Charleston.


The interview was short, but was as follows:

What draws you to use Projections in Theatre? How is it a useful design element in live Theatre? What makes it potentially better than alternatives?

Ally: I personally believe that projections pull us into another world even more so by adding both other worldly and realistic qualities even though it’s live Theatre. I think it is useful in design because it brings things to life that are too big to put on a stage (i.e. a plane, a landscape, more than one location, more than one of certain objects or people). As far design goes it opens up a whole new door to effects that you cannot perform with just a gobo and a fog machine. I think it gives a designer (and director) a whole new set of tools to bring their message to the stage in front of people. Whether that has to do with perspective of the character or the audience.

Have you run into people who think Projection is wrong for live theatre?

Ally: I actually haven’t met anyone who’s challenged it especially since I’m so new to it. To that hypothetical human I would say that I see where they’re coming from. However I think when used correctly, like in The Drowsy Chaperone, it just brings Theatre even more alive.

How was it used in The Drowsy Chaperone?

Ally: They had built an actual cockpit and had him sit in it straight at the audience and the rest of the plane was rear projected behind him. See, perspective.

Do you have a general Projection building process?

Ally: Usually it depends. I use a lot of video. Coming up, I’ll be experimenting with animations. Normally I use After Effects and Cue Lab but I’d like to expand because those don’t go well together.

Could anyone teach themselves how to put together a good projection design?

Ally: Surely anyone can put a PowerPoint up onto a projector and point it at a stage. However the more advanced stuff takes at least some practice. But I’ve taught myself, yes. Getting it to look like quality work is a different story that comes with practice, I guess.



Theatre evolves as society evolves.

Who knows what could be next.