Category Archives: On Stage

How to Hang a Backdrop

One of the most asked questions when a customer calls me is “How do you hang the backdrops?”  It’s a simple question.  And like most simple questions, there isn’t always a simple answer.  But in this case, it is rather simple 90% of the time.  However, there are a few different ways to hang our backdrops.  It’s the other 10% that can be complicated.

Across the top of all of our backdrops, there are tie lines for hanging.  The easiest way to hang a backdrop is to simply tie the backdrop on to one of the stage battens.  The center of each backdrop is marked near the tie lines on the back.  My suggestion is to start from the center of the stage and work your way out.  That way, if there is any extra backdrop leftover (ie if the backdrop is wider than the stage), you can fold the ends behind and tie it off in the back keeping the backdrop centered on stage.

About 80% of our backdrops have the tie lines looped through grommets.  So, you can also hook these backdrops onto hardware through the grommets.  Not too many people do this, but it is an option.  The other 20% have cloth ties that are sewn into the top of the backdrop.  These backdrops do not have grommets.  Again, every backdrop has ties, but not every backdrop has the grommets.

About 33% of our backdrops have a sleeve across the top as well.  It is located below the ties (see photo below).  So, you can slide a pipe through the sleeve without having to tie the backdrop.  Usually, this method is used with pipe and drape systems.  The pipe and drape systems are typically used at trade shows or ballroom events and not with traditional theater stage rigging.

Another aspect of hanging a backdrop occurs before you even rent a backdrop.  You really should know what size backdrop would be effective on your stage.  You do not want to get one that is too small or too big, obviously.  But sometimes, you are not going to get the perfect size.  Sometimes when a backdrop is just a little too big, you can fold the extra backdrop under the scene letting it rest on the stage.  For instance, if you have a 15 foot tall stage but really want the 18 foot tall backdrop, you have to look at the picture to see if you can “fold out” the bottom part of the backdrop without losing the effectiveness of the scene.  If the backdrop is simply a blue sky with clouds, folding out any portion of the backdrop is easy, and you will not “lose” any of the scene.  But if you have a city street scene, you might be folding out half of a doorway or half of a window, and that will not look clean.  You can theoretically fold out the top of the backdrop using heavy clamps.  You would tie the backdrop as usual, but instead of folding the backdrop under, you would “lift” the backdrop up and clamp it to the batten.  This is more time consuming, but it has been done.  However, if you do this, it is very important to protect the backdrop from the clamps since the clamps can leave creases in the backdrop.

There are some instances where the stage is bigger than the backdrop and where the battens are dead hung meaning they don’t move.  When this happens you will have to look into adding rope extensions so that the backdrop will hang lower.  So, the size of your stage is part of how you are going to hang a backdrop.

The last part of hanging a backdrop is weighting it down so that the wrinkles are lessened and so that it does not sway in the wind.  Across the bottom of the backdrops is a pipe pocket.  Some of the pipe pockets already have a light chain sewn into the bottom.  But most have the empty pocket.  You can slide in pvc pipe, wood, metal rods, or a chain into the pocket.  If you have to fold out any part of the backdrop, you’ll have to deal with the weight in the pocket.  You do not HAVE to use a weight in the pocket.  But if you do not have to fold out any part of the backdrop, I highly recommend using one to help with the wrinkles and stability.

Can We Stump You With Broadway Trivia?

Missing Broadway like we are? If you can’t seem to get enough of the streaming services for Broadway shows, you may like our blog this month. Check out some of our questions below to see if we can stump you with some Broadway Trivia.

Check out these trivia categories. Which did you score the best? Can you stump your friends too? We have included the answers below so there will be no questions about who got it right!

Name the Broadway Show From these Lyrics

  1. “There’s a million things I haven’t done, but just you wait.”
  2. “Can you feel the love tonight?”
  3. “On the steps of the palace…”
  4. “A spoonful of sugar lets the medicine go down.”
  5. “Ah the intoxicating smell of the graveyard.”
  6. “Hey there, Teenage Baltimore! Don’t change that channel! ‘Cause it’s time for the Corny Collins Show!”
  7. “Sometimes, when someone has a crush on you, they’ll make you a mixtape to give you a clue.”
  8. “And when someone needs a makeover, I simply have to take over.”
  9. “Don’t go wasting your emotions.”
  10. “The plan is to spark this into a flame, but damn it’s getting dark, so let me spell out the name.”
  11. “In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee, in inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.”
  12. “We’re supposed to be all ladies and nurturing and care. Is that really fair?”
  13. Every man has his daydreams, every man has his goal. People like the way dreams have of sticking to the soul.”
  14. “Suddenly Seymour is standing beside you. You don’t need no makeup, you don’t need to pretend.”
  15. “Climb every mountain…”
  16. General Trivia
  17. Kristen Chenoweth won her one Tony Award in the Broadway production of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown playing what character?
  18. What was the other musical based on the characters of Charles M. Schulz?
  19. The musical The Addams Family is based on The New Yorker cartoons of what artist?
  20. What was the sequel to the musical Annie?
  21. What type of aquatic creature is Spongebob Squarepant’s best friend?

Movie Posters

  1.  What Broadway smash hit is portrayed in this image?Les Mis
  2. What toe-tapping, street-dancing musical is portrayed in this image?West Side Story
  3. Can you tell what Broadway hit show this poster is portraying?Fiddler on the Roof
  4. What was the last Broadway musical Rodgers and Hammerstein created, which starred Mary Martin and debuted in 1959?
  5. A helicopter was the unforgettable set piece of this musical, which opened in 1991.

Answers:

  1. Hamilton
  2. Lion King
  3. Into the Woods
  4. Mary Poppins
  5. The Addams Family
  6. Hairspray
  7. Avenue Q
  8. Wicked
  9. Mama Mia
  10. Hamilton
  11. Rent
  12. Mean Girls
  13. Pippin
  14. Little Shop of Horrors
  15. The Sound of Music
  16. Sally
  17. Snoopy! The Musical
  18. Charles Addams
  19. Annie Warbucks
  20. Starfish

Movie Posters

  1. Les Misérables
  2. West Side Story
  3. Fiddler On The Roof
  4. The Sound of Music
  5. Miss Saigon
Disney castle

Backdrops for Children’s Theaters 

Does your local or community theater love producing children’s theater?. Well, now that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for this global pandemic in the way of a vaccine, it is time to start preparing for your productions in 2021. From the Wizard of Oz to Aladdin, Pinnochio to Little Mermaid, Charles Stewart Backdrops offers a wide variety of backdrops to make your performance look professional and polished. 

Nutcracker scene on stage

Theaters Are Getting Creative 

Theaters across our nation are getting very creative in the ways that they are keeping theater going even in the midst of this COVID-19 outbreak. Some productions are taking place outdoors in parking lots with theater-goers hunkered down in the cars, while other theaters are going forward with virtual productions. It is vital to social and emotional growth that youngsters are able to be a part of a production no matter how it is produced. 

Top Children’s Shows 

According to Children’s Theater Plays online, some of the most popular plays and musicals currently are the traditional shows that we all grew up loving such as: The Wizard of Oz, Finding Nemo, Grease, the Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, and of course the Disney fan favorites. Maybe we are all craving a bit of the familiar and the comfort of a storyline that we can follow along with easily or have songs that we can sing along with. 

forest with dirt path and streamBackdrop Options for Children’s Shows 

Under the Sea Backdrops 

One of our most popular backdrops that can be used in a variety of shows is the “Under the Sea” backdrop. From Little Mermaid, to Finding Nemo, to SpongeBob Squarepants, our under the ocean themed backdrop can bring the audience right into the action by making it appear as though the action is happening beneath the water. Add to that the expertise of lighting professionals and the stage can seemingly be under the sea! 

Storefront Themed Backdrops 

Mom and Pop shops seem to be the setting for many plays and musicals, and Charles Stewart has a few options for backdrops to set the scene for each of these. Whether you are staging Geppetto’s wood carving shop in Pinnochio, or the famous flower shop seen in Little Shop of Horrors, Charles Stewart has the backdrops that can transport audience members into the action in each show. 

Tropical Backdrops 

Who doesn’t love the beach and a tropical destination? Broadway shows that have been adapted for children’s theater have produced some fan favorites such as Tarzan, Mamma Mia, and Treasure Island. Charles Stewart can create a tropical paradise at your location using high- quality backdrops to set the scene on a beach with palm trees and beautiful blue skies. 

Check out our categories on our website that can get your imagination going and your creative juices flowing for your next children’s performance. 

 

Times Square NYC

Broadway Reopening Delayed a Little Longer 

According to a New York Associated Press report on the PBS site, fans of Broadway theater will have to wait a little longer for shows to resume. Theater enthusiasts will need to wait until at least late May 2021. Read on to find out more about this safety precaution as the coronavirus rages on across the country. 

The sad announcement about the reopening delay came this Fall from the Broadway League, the national trade association for the Broadway industry. The 700-plus members of the League include theatre owners and operators, producers, presenters, and general managers in North American cities, as well as suppliers of goods and services to the commercial theatre industry. 

The decision was not an easy one. 

guitar case open on the ground

The Specifics of Reopening & Refunding 

While there actually is no specific date as of right now for reopening, May 2021 is the current timeframe being looked at. The League, in coordination with Broadway producers are now offering refunds and exchanges for tickets purchased for shows through May 30. Adjustments can be made to your credit card or funds can be taken as a donation to the theater industry.

This new timeframe may complicate a long list of shows that had planned to open in the spring, including “The Music Man,” “Flying Over Sunset,” “Caroline, or Change,” “Plaza Suite,” “American Buffalo,” and “The Minutes.” Within hours of the announcement, the musical based on Michael Jackson, called “MJ,” pushed back its performances to September 2021.

Times Square NY

Reactions and Reflection 

This most recent delay in opening of theaters was endorsed by the Actors’ Equity Association, which represents 51,000 theater actors and stage managers. Sadly, it is understood by most in the industry as well as theater-goers that the safety of the actors, crew, and vendors is the most important thing at this point. 

Mary McColl, the executive director for Actors’ Equity Association said this about the decision. “It was a difficult but responsible decision to put the safety and health of their workers and audience first. This is a deeply painful time for everyone who depends on the arts for their livelihood.”

The coronavirus has shuttered Broadway, Off-Broadway and community theaters across the country since mid March. This industry helps to power the United States entertainment economy, making an approximated $1.8 billion dollars last year alone. 

Actors, directors, and producers continue to encourage Americans to wear masks, practice good hand hygiene, stay socially distant, and take the advice of the scientific community in order to protect yourself, others, and get our economy open sooner rather than later. 

 

Broadway theater

What’s Coming to Broadway This Spring?  

Are you looking forward to scoring tickets to a Broadway musical this spring? Well, you’re not alone in that aspiration. Millions of theatergoers will flood New York City and other major hubs hoping to catch their favorite musical on stage. 

This year should prove to be a banner year for musicals along the “Great White Way.” Some shows that are successfully running will still be a big draw for tourists and NYC visitors. Shows like Wicked, Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson, and Mean Girls will continue to shine. Some musical newcomers and revivals may shock us all with the scenery, costumes, and amazing musical scores. 

theater

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? 

This revival of Edward Albee’s classic drama will star Rupert Everett, Russell Tovey, Patsy Ferran, and two-time Tony winner Laurie Metcalf, marking her fifth consecutive season on Broadway. This show will begin at the Booth Theater at the beginning of March with an official opening night slated for April 9th. 

Playbill explains that this musical explores the complexities of a marriage when, “a college professor and his wife invite a younger academic and his wife over for drinks after a late-night party, leading to an evening of sadistic games, attempted seductions and shattering revelations.”  

Mrs. Doubtfire 

Based on the movie by the same name, this musical follows the story of a recently divorced, out-of-work actor, who will do just about anything for the chance to spend some time with his children. He disguises himself as a nanny, Euphegenia Doubtfire, whose persona begins to take on a life of its own. 

The show is packed with all the hilarity you can expect from a cross-dressing, Scottish nanny who learns more than he bargained about his children and himself. 

Directed by Jerry Zaks, the musical starts performances March 9 at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. The official opening night is slated for April 5th. 

theater

Plaza Suite 

This marriage comedy starring real-life husband and wife Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick, follows the story of three couples, all played by Broderick and Parker. This revival of the Neil Simon original follows a long, married couple seemingly doomed for a break up, high school sweethearts, and a mother and father of a bride who are ready to celebrate their daughter’s wedding, if only they could get her out of the bathroom. 

It’s been 20 long years since Parker and Broderick have been on stage together. Directed by John Benjamin Hickey, the play starts its limited run at the Hudson Theatre March 13 ahead of an April 13 opening.

What shows are you looking forward to this spring? Drop us a line in the comments to check out our Facebook page for more spring shows. 

 

theater

Hidden Lessons of Popular Musicals 

Hamilton, Mama Mia, Kinky Boots, and Wicked are just a few of the popular Broadway musicals that have graced the stage along the “Great White Way” in the last few years. These musicals are more than just a combination of fantastic dancing, singing, and plot lines. They have hidden lessons that make theatergoers think about long after they have left the hall. Here are a few of the hidden, yet important, lessons that musicals are teaching audiences. 

stage

Wicked

The life of the wicked witch of the west as told in the musical Wicked, is filled with life lessons about friendships. The strongest message is that friendships are truly everything in life. The well-developed characters explain that some friendships run so deep that they imprint upon you and can change your life for the better. The musical also shows through actions that even though friends may critique one another, the best of friends will always be your biggest fans and most staunch supporters in life. 

Another important life lesson that we could all use a reminder about is the idea that looks are not everything. Take for example the relationship between Glinda and Elphaba. Glinda isn’t keen on Elphaba at the start of the story because she was very obviously green, and Glinda’s sparkly, pink and girly sense of style really wasn’t Elphie’s cup of tea either. They eventually discover that it’s what’s inside that counts. 

These lovely life lessons are paired with incredible music, amazing scenery, and costumes that help promote it to the level of being one of the most popular musicals of the west end. 

Hamilton

Hamilton 

If you are lucky enough to score tickets to the famed Hamilton, then you will be delighted with life lessons from the moment the curtain goes up until it goes down at the end of the night. Hamilton tells the story of forgotten American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton and his ascent out of poverty and to power against the backdrop of the American War of Independence.

There are so many little life lessons as well as grand sweeping ones in this musical that it’s hard to know where to start. Overall, the inspirational message to audiences is that now is the time to take your shot no matter what the risks. You have but one life so take your chance and make it happen for yourself. 

Believe it or not, fans of this particular musical have written fan sites on what they learned from this production, the characters, and the public’s reaction to it. Here’s just a quick overview of what some fans say are the biggest takeaways to Hamilton. 

  • Excuses are a waste of time in life.
  • You are responsible for your own education.
  • Believe in yourself, before you expect other people to believe in you.
  • Pride can literally kill you. Be humble to be truly brilliant.
  • Sacrifice leads to greatness

Dear Evan Hanson 

Evan Hansen is the story of a young man who suffers from severe social anxiety. On the first day of senior year, he writes himself a letter as per his therapist’s recommendation. This awkward teenager craves communication and connection with others. 

He, unfortunately, assists with promoting a huge lie that hurts many people. Evan must come to the very tough realization that he needs to accept himself for who he is before others will do the same. He sings the message powerfully: “All I ever do is run so how do I step in, step into the sun?” While the lesson is one our younger selves could have benefited from, even adults can learn something about loving themselves from this hit musical. 

What hidden messages does your favorite musical promote? Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page

 

Duvetyne, Commando Cloth, or Velour

Fabrics have come and gone over the years.  But despite the many changes in polyester products, cotton cloth styles have remained fairly consistent. For certain there is one product that seems to have stood the test of time….DUVETYNE.  Of course, some consider Duvetyne to be like the little kid sister to big brother COMMANDO CLOTH!

Commando Cloth and Duvetyne are woven masking fabrics made from 100% cotton. They are comparable fabrics except for a few subtle differences. Both have a brushed matte finish and look very similar from the audience. However, Commando Cloth is a heavier fabric which allows no light to pass through. In contrast, Duvetyne is a bit lighter and will allow pinholes of light to show through if there is a very high concentration of light behind it. Both fabrics are widely used as masking throughout the theater and entertainment industry.

Duvetyne is 8oz per linear yard when weighed.  A standard 100 yard roll will weigh in at about 55 pounds.  What exactly does 8oz feel like?  I would compare an 8oz to a cheap open weave denim jeans–a pair that isn’t of the heaviest or top quality.  Not a real workman’s weight.

Commando Cloth is double the weight – making it twice as durable–coming in at 16oz per linear yard.  A standard 100 yard roll will weigh in at 100 pounds.  The feel of commando cloth is like a super heavy pair of workman’s jeans.  You just have a sense of the durability in the thickness and denseness of the cloth.

Another fabric to keep in mind is VELOUR.  Velour is a knit, napped fabric that’s memorable for its lush feel. Velour gets its signature soft feel from what’s called a pile knit texture, which comes from a weaving process where the loops are cut off at the end.  In the theater industry, velour is beloved for its rich luster, fabric durability and clean appearance. Velour fabric can be made from cotton or synthetic material and has a range of qualities depending on the weight and type chosen.

Velour is not to be confused with velvet. Although similar, velour is a pile knit fabric, whereas velvet is a pile weave fabric (yarns are looped into one direction). The difference? Velvet is a lot softer and more luxurious, but also more delicate and better suited for lighter applications.

Velour is a tried-and-true theater fabric. Known for its light-absorbing qualities, velour is most commonly used as stage curtains.  Velour fabric is super durable and versatile in use. Plus, the crush fabric looks great, making it a smart investment for small to large theaters.  However, it is much heavier than commando and duvetyne.  So, if you are looking for rentals, velour might not be the greatest in terms of manageability due to its physical weight.  You can get lighter “velours”, but they are not true velours in terms of sound absorption and light blocking abilities.  They are more for recreating the look of velour without the functionality of a velour.

So, if you have an upcoming theater production and you’re debating which theater fabrics to use, we recommend velour to any size theater that is looking to purchase for long term use where the curtains will stay hung in place.  We recommend commando or duvetyne for any theater or production looking to rent for their one time production.  These fabrics are simply easier to handle than velour.  No matter what you decide, these are excellent fabrics for theater and entertainment purposes.

Creating the Right Mood on the Stage

Part of pulling off a great show is creating the right mood on the stage. Theatergoers expect a story that includes emotion. Giving them that requires the right backdrop, lighting, and acting. Let’s take a closer look at how to create the mood you want on stage using these three components for your next play or musical. 

Backdrops 

When an audience first sees the stage, they expect to be transported into the world being portrayed in the scene on stage. Whether you are trying to paint the image of a Dickens village in England, or a winterscape in New England, a backdrop can make all the difference. Our Backdrops By Charles H. Stewart come in a variety of options from the old Broadway favorites to the abstract. We have hundreds of backdrops to choose from that can help your production set the appropriate mood for the audience. Check out our wide assortment of backdrops organized by category or by show. If you don’t see one that creates the setting and mood you are going for, we can custom make a backdrop to meet your specifications. 

Lighting 

Obviously, in conjunction with the backdrops, the lighting plays a key role in creating the right mood on stage. The angle, color, and brilliance of the lighting can determine the mood the performers are trying to portray. For example, lighter colors to convey day and darker tones for dusk.

Most stage lighting professionals and designers focus on five main positions to create the desired mood. The main lighting areas include: front, back, side, down, and high side lighting. Each choice casts a different view of what is happening on stage. In some instances the lighting can look dark and foreboding, while other times the lighting can create a light, happy tone. 

Acting 

Acting is clearly a central component to the performance and a key influencing element to how gratifying and atmospheric the drama is. Directors claim that the tone the actors on stage create is in conjunction with the lighting, sound, and backdrops. It all comes together to set a mood in one unified way so that audience members are pulled into the story and the mood is prevalent throughout the theater. 

Check out our backdrops online and on our Facebook page for your next production. No matter the mood, we can help you set the tone for your performance. 

 

Benefits of Supporting Community Theater 

In our last blog we discussed the grand opening of the Concord Youth Theater in Concord, Massachusetts. This theater was once the home of the iconic Captain America, Chris Evans. This small community theater was where Evans got his start and began his future career in the Marvel Avengers superhero films. It reminds us of why community theater is so important and why we should follow “The Captain’s” lead and support our local community theaters. 

Supporting a community theater can take many forms. Maybe you volunteer your time with young thespians, or maybe you take your artistic talent and create works of art in the form of props, lighting, music, or scenery for an upcoming musical or play. If time is short but you still want to show your support, monetary donations are always welcome to a theater in your town or region. Here is why: 

Nurturing New Artists and Actors

The ThoughtCo, the world’s largest education resource, reports that many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small town playhouses. Just by attending and applauding, audiences give up-and-coming stars the positive feedback they need to continue their artistic pursuits.

Just like Captain America felt safe to try out his love of acting in a community theater so could the “next big name” in Hollywood or on Broadway, being on stage can help build the confidence and self esteem of some future actor who may want to go on in the field of the entertainment industry. 

Learning Valuable Skills 

Community theater is not just about learning to act, it can help build communication skills, leadership qualities, and open hearts and minds to understanding people who are different from us. Young and old alike can learn a new skill such as lighting, musicianship, or directing and learning from an older mentor who has been around the stage crew, lighting technology and instruments their whole lives. 

Local Marketing 

Getting involved in your local theater does not always need to be altruistic in nature. Maybe your small business needs to get its name out there. Supporting a theater company is a great way to advertise your services or products. Just think about it. What are people doing while waiting for a show to begin? They are flipping through the program reading the actors bios and seeing the local companies who are supporting the show. Your business name and logo could be seen by hundreds of people in just one weekend! So next time you go to a movie, see a play, or watch a musical, ask yourself where these actors got their “break.” Chances are it was a community theater. Support your local community theater today. Check out our Facebook page where we often post about local shows and theater options.

The Importance of Introducing Children to Live Theater 

Most people who love theater think of it merely as their favorite form of entertainment. I mean, what’s not to love about escaping reality and getting pulled into the lives of the characters on the stage? But did you know that, while you are enjoying the show, you are also learning, connecting, and finding ways to relate to others? Theater, especially live theater geared towards children, can have more of an impact that just a fun afternoon out watching people recite lines, act, and playout characters. Read on to find out why theater is important for our younger learners. 

Immersion of Culture 

Through live theatre, audiences, both young and old, are immersed in stories about characters from every background imaginable. Characters who are a different race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and gender can teach children about what it is like in cultures around the globe, not just the small world where they live in. Imagine the positive impact that can have on a child who now has his/her eyes opened to what it is like to be someone from outside their cultural background. 

Creativity and Imagination 

As part of the audience asked to imagine Jack’s “beanstalk” growing out of the stage floor, or that a Big Bad Wolf can actually talk, takes some stretching of the imagination. This creativity requires that the audience thinks outside the box. This can translate into the nurturing of creativity and imagination that can be a valuable asset later in life. “Theatre is the single most valuable place where kids can explore the endless possibilities of their imaginations and what they can do,” according to Danica Taylor, a writer for the Rep Theater online

School Performance and Community Service 

Research from UCLA’s Graduate School of Education by Dr. James Catterall shows that students who are exposed to the arts are more likely to be involved in community service, and are less likely to drop out of school. Studies by neuroscientists have shown that both the left and right hemispheres of the brain need to be fully stimulated in order for the brain to utilize its true potential. This means that it is just as important to immerse children in creative activities that exercise the right brain, as it is to immerse them in scientific and analytic activities for the left-brain. (Source: Taylor, Rep Theater) 

Communication 

As students become involved in theater, not merely as a passive theater-goer, they learn the skill of communication both verbally and with body language. Imagine how fun it is to learn how to speak clearly so even the person at the back of the theater can understand your message. This skill is needed in almost every career industry imaginable. 

Why does your child learn while he/she is involved in theater? For some, it may be as simple as how to be a good audience member who pays attention and is courteous. Leave us a note on our Facebook page or on our website