Common Set Design Mistakes

Every designer, whether it is for home decor, graphic design or set design runs into common problems and overages. There are so many components to bring together in a seamless performance that just about anything that can go wrong, will. Resident Set Designer at Hedgerow Theatre Company, Zoran Kovcic says, “You know what an expert is? It’s someone who’s made more mistakes than you.” There are many common errors when designing and setting up a stage environment. Here are just a few that you may want to avoid if you are directing or producing a performance on stage.

  • Rushing it – Many set designers need to be multitaskers and able to handle multiple performances at varied venues. In these cases, rushing and missing details can be a problem. Even the smallest detail can make or break a show. Take your time and go step-by-step through the script and take copious notes that will help you design a set that matches the action on the stage.
  • Over Designing – Some designers go the other direction and add too many moving parts to the set. This can get a bit overwhelming for the crew if there are too many pieces of furniture or too many prop changes to make.
  • Overspending – The cost of set design can range from working on a small budget to exorbitant amounts. Keep your costs in check by spending “smart.” Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart can help you set the tone and scene without costing you an arm and a leg for furniture or background props.
  • Not Listening to the Actors – Often in stage performance, the actors are the first line when it comes to understanding the blocking and flow of the show. Always talk to the people closest to the show to find out how the design should work for them.

Broadway or Off-Broadway?

Ever wonder what reviewers, critics and promoters mean when you hear the terms “Broadway” and “Off-Broadway” being bandied about in regard to your favorite theatrical productions? Well, Broadway is a main thoroughfare that cuts diagonally from the northwest to southeast of Manhattan island completely messing up the grid pattern of streets on the island, but creating large open spaces for places such as Madison Square, Herald Square, and Times Square. But are all the shows that are considered Broadway on this particular street? Let’s take a closer look.

According to Playbill Online Most “Broadway” theatres are located on side streets near Broadway in midtown Manhattan including West 41st Street through West 52nd Street between Avenue of the Americas and Ninth Avenue. The one exception is the Vivian Beaumont Theatre at Lincoln Center, near West 65th Street. The nickname “Broadway” was originally given at the turn of the 20th century when most theaters were located on the actual street called “Broadway.” Today there are only four “Broadway” theatres that are actually on Broadway: the Winter Garden, the Roundabout, the Marquis, and the eponymous Broadway Theatre. The term “Broadway” today also gives a sense that the show and theater are larger and tend to be more well known, or at least, hopefully, more successful.

Off-Broadway indicates that the theater is outside of the main area of Broadway, and instead is usually in areas such as Greenwich Village, the upper West Side, and, to a lesser degree, the East Side. The general term “Off-Broadway” also means that the scale of the production, as well as the size of the theater, tend to be smaller and attract less attention. Although this does not mean the show will be “less” – consider Rent as an example of an Off Broadway show that made it big!  When shows are considered appealing to a larger crowd at some of the smaller Off-Broadway locations, they may switch classifications to be newly considered as “making their Broadway debut.”

So the terminology theater buffs use when talking about Broadway vs Off-Broadway refers to, not only the physical location of, but also the size and appeal of a show. I hope this helps you in your quest to understand all things theater related. Check back next month as we look at more terms and fun shows debuting this fall and winter!


Creating a Mood on the Stage

Mood is a key element in any performance whether it is: a musical or dramatic performance, on a high school stage or under the big lights of Broadway. The audience can sense the mood and atmosphere through the lighting, music, set design, props, clothing and the tone given off by the actors. The performers can add to the mood by using specific dialogue, facial gestures and movement. Here at Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart, we know the importance of setting the tone, atmosphere and mood from the moment the curtain rises. Let’s take a look at ways to set mood during a performance and through set design.


  • Lighting – Lighting is probably one of the most straight-forward ways to set a mood on stage. From full stage illumination to a single spotlight, the mood can change from wild, happy and energetic to somber and quiet. The intensity, coloring and direction of the lighting can help set a mood that will be mirrored by the actors on stage.
  • Backdrops – Backdrops and drapes come in all sorts of scenic designs and colors. Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart can enhance your production by allowing for dramatic shifts with the use of different backgrounds.
  • Music – The music or score of any production works with the plot, acting, lighting and dialogue to create a mood that is unique to the action on the stage. In addition to the score, sound effects such as doors opening, floorboards squeaking and bells ringing can increase the dramatic effect.
  • Costumes and Props – While every play/musical has its own set and costume design, these items can also play into the atmosphere that the director wants to portray. Whether the play is set in the 18th Century or the 1980s, the clothing and props worn and used by the actors is just one more component that adds to the overall mood of the performance.


Need help creating a mood for your set design? Call Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart for more information on the wide range of backdrops we offer. The possibilities are endless.


Disney on Broadway

Do your children love the theater and all things Disney? Then combine the best of both worlds for your little ones by exposing them to some of the great Disney shows that make their way to the bright lights of Broadway. Live audience shows for Disney stories are known for capturing the hearts of audiences around the world. Let’s take a look at some of the top Disney shows that have been on Broadway. Keep an eye out for your favorites that may make a comeback.

  • Lion King – The story about a royal lion who struggles to find himself and his place in the wilderness of the savanna is truly one of the greats! Children (and adults) have gotten caught up in this production. The amazing music of Elton John and Tim Rice, paired with a plot with Shakespearean roots were made to be a Broadway hit!
  • Beauty and the Beast – This tale of a man-turned-beast and a lovely maiden who fall in love under the most unlikely of circumstances is one that has delighted young audiences. The story’s charm, along with its notable music, quickly made this one a fan-favorite. Adaptations from the Broadway musical have gone on to inspire off-Broadway performances and many high school theater shows.
  • Mary Poppins – How many of us love the music and dancing of this show and can even remember it from our childhood? Probably many of us. This Disney performance is one that every child should try to see, whether it is at the professional level or done by summer theaters around the country.
  • Aladdin – The story of Princess Jasmine and Aladdin is one that will have young viewers dancing and singing along with their favorite songs. The genie will make you laugh and leave you wanting more. While the show did receive mixed reviews on Broadway, young audiences loved it!

Biggest Flops on Broadway

What makes a Broadway musical a flop? The truth is that Broadway is a brutal business, in which real success is enjoyed by only a handful of shows, while a vast majority crash and burn within the first 100 days – some even sooner. According to Theater Online, “Shows fail because not enough people buy tickets to see them. Maybe the title wasn’t as popular as the producers thought, the performers not as appealing, the stories not as dramatic, the songs not as memorable.”

This past year we heard so much of the success of Hamilton, School of Rock, On Your Feet!, Fiddler on the Roof, and The Color Purple. But what about the shows that flop? Let’s take a look at some of the biggest flops on Broadway.

  • Carrie – With a whopping five shows, this, my friends, is the ultimate quick flop. Stephen King’s Carrie was a great book, a great movie, and a painfully expensive failure of a musical.
  • Kelly – With a sad and pitiful one-night showing, Kelly wins for shortest run. Kelly opened and closed on the same night, with Howard Taubman savagely writing in the Times: “Ella Logan was written out of Kelly before it reached the Broadhurst Theater Saturday night. Congratulations, Ms. Logan.”
  • Enron – This show, about the rise and fall of the Enron company, ran for only 15 nights. While the story itself was epic and true in nature, it did not last the boring mathematics that the audience endured.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show – Hard to believe that the film that did so well flopped on Broadway after 45 nights. Rocky Horror got the last laugh, however, eventually becoming the longest running theatrical release in film history.


Visit us next month as we look at the best and worst of children’s musicals.

Best Musicals of the 20th Century

Musicals have come and gone from theatre’s and it can be hard to keep up. However, some continue to perform every night. With a combination of music, dancing, inspiring stories told by talented casts, which musicals are the best of the 20th century?

Today, we are going to take a look at the best musicals of the 20th century that many fans continue to see today!

West Side Story – The West Side Story is a modern day Romeo and Juliet in the lives of New York street gangs. This famous musical is beloved by many as two gangs battle for control of their turf, while one gang member’s deep love for a rival’s sister complicates things further.

Les Misérables – Based on the popular novel by Victor Hugo, Les Misérables is about the lives of characters such as Javert, Valjean and Fantine during the French Revolution of the 18th century.

The Sound of Music – This beloved classic continues to run on Broadway even today. This show is about Maria, who becomes the nanny of a set of kids that changes her life completely.

The Phantom of the Opera – Inside a Paris opera house, the looking Phantom schemes and tricks his way to get closer to the beautiful vocalist Christine Daae.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show – In this cult classic, Brad and Janet are stuck with a flat tire under a storm and discover the mansion of Dr. Frank-N-Furter. Through dances and rock songs, Dr. Frank-N-Furter unveils his latest creation, a man named “Rocky.”

RENT – This favorite among many is known as an all time classic. RENT tells a story of one year of a group of New Yorker’s struggles through their love lives, careers and effects of the AIDS epidemic within their community.

Wicked – Wicked tells the untold story between Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West and Galinda, Galinda the Good Witch from their perspective as they were once the best of friends.

Broadway Shows for Kids

Do you love the theater? If so, you probably enjoy sharing the experience with a friend, loved one, spouse, or even your children. Sharing your love of the theater with your kids can be a magical experience. Finding an age appropriate show that captures the heart and interest of your child can be a bit tricky, though. We suggest starting with award winning shows, favorite children’s books, or films that s/he can relate to and follow the storyline easily. Here are some great choices to spark your child’s love for the theater:

  • Wicked – Based on the story of Oz, children will love the costumes, flying monkeys, and robust score. This show is on Broadway through the end of September.
  • Aladdin – Most children will recognize this Disney classic that follows the antics of Aladdin and the Genie, and the blooming relationship with Jasmin. Children will enjoy the scenery, costumes, songs they can sing along to, and characters they have come to love. This show runs through mid-August.
  • School of Rock Musical – Based on the 2003 feature film School of Rock, children will love the music and energetic actors who play students vying for a spot in the musical.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – This favorite film and book runs on Broadway through January 2018. Children will love the story of Charlie as he wins his way into the mysterious chocolate factory and all the adventures to be had within.
  • Spongebob Squarepants – No, not your average Broadway Theater show, but loved nonetheless. This zany sponge who lives under the sea will delight even the youngest of viewers.

Stage Etiquette

Theater etiquette isn’t just important from an audience perspective, it is also important for actors and stage members to follow certain rules when in or around the stage. Aside from remembering your lines, stage etiquette comes a long way to everyone involved in the production as it helps to keep everything on track and helps make the production run smoothly each performing night.

Rehearsals – Rehearsals help everyone stay and remain on the same page, so always arrive on time for warm ups. Learn your lines, and follow along for tips and updates on a character.

Stick to the script – The script takes a long time to get it perfect and it is written the way it is for a reason. Unless you are doing improvisation, stick to it.

Before the Show – Stay off the stage and out of the theater once the house is open as it can spoil any surprises or part of the show. Especially avoid it when in costume, too.

Don’t talk backstage – Talking backstage can bring noise and distractions that the audience can pick up on. Instead, avoid speaking behind the scenes or while a play is happening. Avoid talking, whispering in the wings, or even noise in the dressing room. Sometimes a microphone can be left backstage leaving the audience to hear everything. If you wish to see the show backstage, instead hang out in the monitor or green room. It is also very important to stay out of the way for actors who will frequently be going in and out of the stage.

Food and drinks – Never eat behind the stage or near the wings. Instead, consume drinks and food in the Green Room. Things can spill and can possibly ruin costumes or create a trip/slip hazard for actors and production staff. It is also important to never put food, drinks or any object on a prop table.

The Tony Awards Winners!


The 71st annual Tony Awards premiered last night and it was a whirlwind! Kevin Spacey hosted the show, which aired on CBS from Radio City Music Hall in New York. Among many different shows throughout the night, “Hello, Dolly!” and “Dear Evan Hansen” were the biggest winners. For best musical, “Dear Evan Hansen” star Ben Platt won lead actor. Bette Midler however, won lead actress and best revival of a musical for “Hello, Dolly” giving a memorable speech after her win.

Check the list below to see if any of your favorites won?!

Best Play: “Oslo” (WINNER)

Best Musical: “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)

Best Book of a Musical: “Dear Evan Hansen” — Steven Levenson (WINNER)

Best Original Score: “Dear Evan Hansen” — Music & Lyrics: Benj Pasek & Justin Paul (WINNER)

Best Revival of a Play: “August Wilson’s Jitney” (WINNER)

Best Revival of a Musical: “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play: Kevin Kline, “Present Laughter” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play: Laurie Metcalf, “A Doll’s House, Part 2” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical: Ben Platt, “Dear Evan Hansen”(WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Musical: Bette Midler, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play: Michael Aronov, “Oslo” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play: Cynthia Nixon, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical: Gavin Creel, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical: Rachel Bay Jones, “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)

Best Scenic Design of a Play: Nigel Hook, “The Play That Goes Wrong” (WINNER)

Best Scenic Design of a Musical: Mimi Lien, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” (WINNER)

Best Costume Design of a Play: Jane Greenwood, “Lillian Hellman’s The Little Foxes” (WINNER)

Best Costume Design of a Musical: Santo Loquasto, “Hello, Dolly!” (WINNER)

Best Lighting Design of a Play: Christopher Akerlind, “Indecent” (WINNER)

Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Bradley King, “Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812” (WINNER)

Best Direction of a Play: Rebecca Taichman, “Indecent” (WINNER)

Best Direction of a Musical: Christopher Ashley, “Come From Away” (WINNER)

Best Choreography: Andy Blankenbuehler, “Bandstand” (WINNER)

Best Orchestrations: Alex Lacamoire, “Dear Evan Hansen” (WINNER)

Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre: James Earl Jones

Special Tony Award: Gareth Fry and Pete Malkin, sound designers for “The Encounter”

Regional Theatre Tony Award: Dallas Theater Center in Dallas, Texas

Isabelle Stevenson Tony Award: Baayork Lee

Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre: Nina Lannan and Alan Wasser

Tony Awards Facts

The Tony Awards are fast approaching and for theater lovers, it is the award show we look forward to every year! This year, the show will be hosted by Kevin Spacey at the Radio City Music Hall in New York.

On today’s post, we’ll take a look at some cool facts from previous Tony Award shows as we await for theater’s big night!

Mike Nichols has won more Tony Awards for Best Direction of a Play than anyone else! This includes: Barefoot in the Park, Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, The Real Thing, and The Prisoner of Second Avenue!

Bob Fosse continues to be the only director to win a Tony, an Oscar, and an Emmy all in the same year of 1973. He won an Oscar for Cabaret, Emmy for Liza with a Z and two Tony’s for Pippin.

In 1995, despite having nine nominations, Indiscretions had the worst Tony night, winning no awards.

Angela Lansbury has hosted and co-hosted more Tony telecasts than any individual including five telecast (1968, 1971, 1987, 1988, and 1989). Neil Patrick Harris and Hugh Jackman follow suit.

Amanda Plummer is still the only Tony Award winner whose parents both won Tonys. Amana won a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Play for Agnes of God. Christopher Plummer, her father, won Best Actor in a Musical for Cyrano and her mother, Tammy Grimes, won as Featured Actress in a Musical for The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Frank Langella and Boyd Gaines are both male performers with the most Tony Awards in acting categories, both winning four to date.

There are nine performers who have won a Tony and then an Oscar for the same role:

   – José Ferrer in Cyrano de Bergerac, won a Tony in 1947, Oscar in 1950.

   –  Jack Albertson in The Subject Was Roses, won a Tony in 1965, Oscar in 1968.

   – Joel Grey in Cabaret, won a Tony in 1967, Oscar in 1973.

   – Viola Davis in Fences, won a Tony in 2010, an Oscar in 2017.

   – Paul Scofield in A Man for All Seasons, won a Tony in 1962, an Oscar in 1966.

   – Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, won a Tony in 1957, an oscar in 1964.


The 1978 play, Da, was the Tony Award-winning play with the shortest title!