performers in the shadows on stage with a red curtain in the background

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.

Crafting the Perfect Ambience in Theatre


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 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.


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.

Pivotal Role in Setting the Mood in Theatre

We all know theatre is a fabricated representation of real life. However, when setting the mood in theatre, actors need to play on real emotions of real members of the audience in order to gain the reactions necessary. There are a few critical aspects of surroundings and physical appearance that evoke certain emotions realistically, and they are a pivotal part of setting the mood in theatre.


An actor brings a character to life on stage. Their job is to influence the atmosphere for everyone present and through their depiction of the character, they have the ability to set whatever mood they want for the audience. A sorrowful monologue or a jubilant victory speech can dramatically change the mood of the scene.

Voice Inflection and Tone

Everyone has experienced raising their voice and speaking down an octave while angry, a soft whimper when upset, or loud and bubbly when happy. By modulating their voice, actors can convey emotions, create tension, or establish a specific atmosphere. The way they speak, whether it’s through volume, pitch, pace, or rhythm, significantly influences the audience’s perception of the scene.

Physical Expression and Body Language

“Actions speak louder than words” could not be more true in this situation. Sometimes a simple physical gesture can evoke more emotion than speech both in real life and on stage. An actor’s physicality helps create a visual language that enhances the audience’s understanding and emotional connection to the scene.

Facial Expressions

These are sometimes hard to hide in real life when you don’t want to show you’re upset or maybe frustrated. On stage however, facial expressions are sometimes the most moving and mood evoking aspect. Actions as subtle as narrowing ones eyebrows, widening eyes, or pursing lips together can convey a wide range of emotions, adding depth to a character and creating an overall ambiance.

Interaction with Other Characters

Through their dialogue, physicality, and emotional exchanges, actors can create tension, intimacy, conflict, or harmony, significantly shaping the mood and energy of the performance. The chemistry between actors contributes greatly to the overall emotional impact on the audience.

Reacting to the Environment

By incorporating their surroundings into their actions, actors have the ability to create a rich atmosphere where they have the power to control emotions. Set design, lighting or sound cues are examples of impactful interactions with their environment.


Timing is critical in any type of performance. Precise execution of dramatic or comedic moments, intentional pauses, and any purposeful disruption to an ongoing rhythm is a theatrical art. An actors’ ability to control timing and pacing enhances the desired effect of emotional responses.

Use of Space

The way that actors move around the stage, where and how much space they choose to occupy along with their proximity to other characters or objects can be very telling of the mood of the scene. Spacial relations can help convey dynamics, emotions, intimacy and even foreshadow future situations.


In theatre, improvised scenes aren’t rehearsed beforehand, and when something is said or done spontaneously, it can create a raw emotion and mood that an audience is bound to feel. Improvisation adds a sense of authenticity and unpredictability that can easily sway the theatre’s mood.

Set The Right Atmosphere in Theatre

Need help creating a mood for your set design? Take a look here on our website at the wide range of backdrops we offer and be sure to contact us to purchase or rent. The possibilities are endless.


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