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What you'll need...

  • Paper or card (A4 cut into quarters to make postcard-sized pieces)

  • Pencil or pen

  • Coloured pencils

Suitable for ages 8-14 Time guideline: 45-60 minutes

It is the job of the stage designer to transport the audience to the world in which the story of a particular opera or ballet takes place. In opera and ballet, just like in a play, the story we see on stage is usually split up into ‘acts’, which are made up of individual ‘scenes’. Acts are often divided by an interval, where the audience can go and buy a drink or an ice cream! It’s really important that the designer gets to know the story of whichever opera or ballet they are designing for, working through their ideas so that the sets and scenery will work for every scene. In this activity, you’re going to learn how to make a storyboard, which is a really useful tool theatre designers use to work out how each scene will look.


To get to know a story, a designer creates a storyboard, which will remind them what needs to happen in each scene, particularly to highlight:

  • Key moments in the story

  • Who is onstage (and how much space the dancers or singers need)

  • Entrances and exits made by all the characters

Watch this short film about making your own storyboard, with theatre designer Rhys Jarman.


Next, choose an opera or ballet from the list below. You’ll find a synopsis (broken down into acts and scenes) explaining the story of each production.

Swan Lake synopsis
Download PDF • 42KB

Romeo and Juliet synopsis
Download PDF • 62KB

La bohème synopsis
Download PDF • 56KB


Make a list of the scenes you want to consider for your storyboard. Take one of your postcard-sized pieces of paper or card at a time. On one side write the requirements of the scene. Think about where the scene is set and what items of scenery you will need to represent.


Now, using the caption you have written on one side, turn the card over and sketch out your idea for what that scene looks like. Work quickly through the scenes to begin with. Then go back over the cards and see how well your design meets the requirements of the story. Now you can start to add in more ideas and colours, and, importantly, think about how the dancers or singers will look on the stage.


You can make these sketches as detailed as you want. Once you have created your storyboard, lay your cards out in order to see how your version of the ballet or opera will be told to the audience visually. If you made a stage in Week 1, you may want to bring one of your scenes to life on your model stage.

Now that you’ve learned how to make a storyboard, you can use it to plan all kinds of stories. Storyboards are used not just in the theatre, but in film and television too, so why not try storyboarding a scene from your favourite book, or even storyboarding a tall tale from your own imagination.

What I have learned...

  • How to break up a story into its main elements LITERACY

  • How to create your own storyboard designs for the stage DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY

Don’t forget, we would love to see how you’ve explored your creativity in the design process, so please ask a parent or guardian to take a picture of your storyboard or model, and share with us on social media! #kuuoliving

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