Category Archives: Backdrops

Movies that Began on Broadway 

In this age of Marvel movie crossovers and watching characters from one superhero film show up in another one, we have become accustomed to the idea of crossovers. But did you know that Broadway theater shows have been making the leap from the stage to movies for years before it was “in?” 

As a child growing up in the ‘80s, I had lots of musicals that would come spinning out of my mouth as I played with friends or concentrated on my homework. After seeing Annie on stage, I was a “hard knock kid” for months and months. I knew the lines and characters arguably better than the actual actors. 

Fast forward a few decades and I brought my sons to Annie at the local movie theater. My kids loved it as much as I did but boy was it a culture shock to see how they adapted it to our modern, tech-savvy lives of today. The songs and the premise were the same, but the cultural and social aspects were completely different… not bad, just different. 

Lots of Broadway shows have been adapted for movies in our society today. Two of my favorites are Grease and Mamma Mia! Again, the songs were the same but each was shifted just enough that you could tell that Hollywood had put their stamp on it. 

Depending upon your generation you may remember different Broadway shows before they became screen hits. For example, my mom’s generation remembers West Side Story, My Fair Lady, and Les Misérables before they were adapted. Who knows, younger generations may someday remember Hamilton on stage if it ever gets sent to Hollywood. 

What is your favorite Broadway show that was remade in Hollywood? Tell us in the comments and tell us whether you liked the remake or not. 

 

Theater Traditions 

Baseball players use the same lucky bat, football players don’t change their game day socks, and for years I have not stepped on sidewalk cracks for fear of breaking my mother’s back. Superstitions run deep in some people, but none more than theater people who have a long list of unique theater traditions. 

Theater folk are a fiercely superstitious breed and they follow certain traditions to ward off bad luck and make each production go smoothly. Some traditions are rooted in historic theater lore, while others actually seem to make pretty good sense. Check out some of our favorite theater traditions. 

 

Break A Leg 

One of my favorite theater traditions that has made its way into mainstream American life is the phrase “Break a leg.” This means good luck even though it sounds horrible. In Shakespeare’s time, ‘break’ meant ‘bend’, so to ask someone to ‘Bend the Leg’ meant to take lots of bows at the end of a performance. Then there are the die-hard thespians who believe that there are theater ghosts or fairies who like to cause mischief by or wreak havoc on your production. So saying the opposite is better luck than wishing someone good luck. Go figure! 

 

Flowers Before a Performance

You should never give a reward before the event has occurred, therefore giving flowers before a performance is another no-no in the lore of theater traditions. To give a bouquet of flowers to the actors, director, or producer before the end of the show would, again, tempt the fates. 

 

Terrible Dress Rehearsal Means a Great Performance

For this superstitious belief, I really think it is a way of chasing away the night before performance anxiety and nerves. Many actors really believe that all the things that go wrong (and there are usually a lot of things that go awry) during the last dress rehearsal are a good omen of the opening night. Most likely, this lore came from tired cast members who are nervous about the upcoming show and need that adrenaline boost of the opening night to shoo the worries away! 

 

The Ghost Light 

For decades crew members have been leaving on one light – the ghost light – to ward off bad spirits after each performance. Many believe this superstition came from too many people tripping over props and other items left behind the curtain. Others believe it is the ghost of the first actor, Thespis, who is haunting the stage at night. 

Does your theater group have any unique traditions? Share them with us and let us know where the traditions came from. We love to hear all the great superstitions. 

 

The Perfect Setting for Your Show

When it is important to set the stage or the mood, backdrops are the perfect item. From the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, theater has been a way to express ideas and emotions. Theatrical renditions range from tackling the most controversial issues and historical events to depicting real life drama, fantasy or romance. The creativity involved in these endeavors is unrivaled. Great care is taken to create the most lifelike of scenes or to evoke a particular emotional response. The backdrop and the scenery are the canvas on which the drama occurs. This essential element transports the viewer to another place and time as the events unfold. Backdrop rentals can help to accentuate many functions.

Backdrops come in a variety of forms. This can range from a basic curtain to elaborate theatrical scenery. Backdrop rentals can be used for stage shows, weddings, photo shoots, and other special events. Muslin backdrops come in a variety of colors and shades. These can be hand painted or reversible for a variety of options.

The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing the best backdrop rentals for an occasion. Beautiful scenic backdrops of locations from the US to Europe to Asia to Africa are available. Exotic scenes from the jungle, the pyramids or an enchanted forest can also be had. Backdrops from a Broadway musical or scenes simulating a dance club are also popular. Religious backdrops can enhance the depth of any religious function, lending a more spiritual energy to the occasion. There are also holiday specific backdrops that can make any day special. You can even design your own custom backdrop, but these you would have to purchase.

Backdrop rentals are just a Google search away. Many options are available online with a vast array of choices that will suit any occasion. When confirming the booking, we may require a deposit with payment in full due prior to shipping. It is possible to hold your choice until you make a final decision. Backdrops are the responsibility of the customer from the time that they are rented until they are returned. Care should be taken with backdrop rentals. A clean dry surface is required for handling. Sharp objects can rip or tear the backdrops, resulting in costly repairs, so be careful when opening the box the backdrop arrives in. The backdrop of your dreams can make your special occasional a day to remember.

Summer Planning for your Theater Loving Family

Does your family love the theater? Is Playbill one of your favorite bookmarked pages? Is your name constantly in the daily raffle for front row seats for Broadway musicals? Well, summer is here and that means time to catch all the shows you can!

Massachusetts is the birthplace of summer stock theater and there is no shortage of great playhouses all over New England. That’s why it comes as no surprise that if you want a summer filled with musicals and thespians, our region is the place to be!

If you are looking for musicals or performances that are kid friendly or will entertain, there is a long list of Boston Theaters that will deliver! For example, Boston theaters are currently performing Pete the Cat, The Lion King, Cirque Du Soleil, and the ever-popular Blue Man Group. If you are looking for showtimes or tickets, then check out this site to start your summer planning. Think of the fun you could have in Boston for the weekends.

If you are looking to get out of the greater Boston area, there are tons of summer stock theaters from Maine to Vermont and Connecticut to Cape Cod. In a recent blog, we examined all the summer theaters that you could make a road trip out of this summer. Check out the options for your family and make it a summer you won’t soon forget.

For more serious theater lovers or children who have a flair for the arts, some of these shows may be of interest this summer. Check out Dear Evan Hansen, Hello Dolly, Cats, the 20th Anniversary of Rent, Mean Girls, Miss Saigon, or Fiddler on the Roof. Depending upon the style of musical you like, you could catch a few shows before the end of the summer.

Looking for a list of theaters that can help you plan your summer vacation? Check out MassHome for theaters with family-friendly productions, musicals, community theaters, and even campus theaters.

Social Issues and Broadway

Since the dawn of theatrical performances in ancient Greece, social issues have been a major theme. Theater lovers would be quick to note that musicals have never been removed from the world in which it exists. Why would we expect it to be in a time when social issues such as racism, human rights, and homophobia are still being debated. Let’s take a quick look at how Broadway has used the stage as a mirror to reflect the changing times and the issues that need attention in our society.

Hamilton: An American Musical

Since its first performance in February 2015, Hamilton: An American Musical has been inspiring conversations about the broad range of people who get to call this American founding narrative our own. This political musical attempts to reframe the way we envision partisan politics in America. In a time when American citizens are being put in travel bans and equal rights are being stripped away – sometimes slowly other times in large open ways – Hamilton is part of the dialogue of what it means to be American.

 

Rent

Rent opened in 1996 and, while it was never as popular as Hamilton, it still tackled issues such as the HIV/AIDS crisis in the U.S. Rent was the hottest, most groundbreaking musical in town in the 1990s. With a slew of Tony Awards and the elusive Pulitzer Prize, it was a cultural phenomenon of its time. Not only were we singing the songs but also discussing love, loss, and equality. Rent took the audience along for a ride through the struggles of those living under the threat of impending death and shows that love, respect, and friendship are the only things that matter.

In an article published by the Huffington Post, author Katherine Brooks points out that there are so many musicals that broach social issues in a way that gets theatergoers thinking and talking. She states that, “There are countless other, even more obviously politically charged plays and musicals worth discussing: “Assassins” (the hedonism of political culture in America), “An Enemy of the People” (whistleblowers), “The Crucible” (witch hunts), and, more recently, “Eclipsed” (civil war in Liberia) and “Allegiance” (Japanese prison camps). And those are just some of my favorites, cherry-picked from a long, long, long list of historically relevant titles.”

 

Maintaining an Organized Prop Space

In our last blog, we discussed creating a safe rehearsal space for all members of your theater group. This week we are discussing something related – organizing and maintaining your prop area. Not only can a well-ordered prop space add to safety, but it can keep your production on track.

Prop Masters or Mistresses have a hugely important job. Think about all of the props, both large and small that need to be used throughout the production. These items need to appear on stage seamlessly in between acts while actors scurry around to either change costumes or switch stage entrances. Here are some ideas on how to maintain an organized prop space for your spring or summer play.

Create a Master Prop List

One of the best ways for keeping track of what is needed (and when) is to create a prop list. Draft a list that names each item and for which act or scene it is needed on stage. This will not only give you a good sense of how long the item should be out on the stage but from what side (stage right or left) it will need to enter or exit.

 

Arrange the Props

This is, by far, the most challenging part of maintaining the items that are needed on stage, especially given that there is little light backstage to guide the crew. Whether you use a locker system, a prop table, or another method, arrange the props in a way that makes sense and still allows for movement to and from the stage. Take into account the size of each item, where they will be entering, and how long they will be out on the stage.

Small Props

Small props such as rings, coins, or anything smaller than a hand should be kept separate from the other props. These items are notoriously known for going missing right before they are needed on stage. Don’t be caught scurrying around searching for the items at the last second. Instead, keep them in a resealable, zipper bag pinned up right near the stage entrance.

Do you have any tricks that you use to keep your props organized? We’d love to hear from prop masters and mistresses. Tell us in the comments below what you do to keep things organized.

 

The Magic of Sound Effects on Stage

Sound and sound effects are an integral part of any storytelling art including television, movies and any live stage performance. We probably can all hear the sound of a shark approaching if we saw the movie Jaws. For viewers who like thrillers, the shower scene in Psycho is probably a soundtrack that you will never forget. And for our Star Wars lovers, the sound of a lightsaber is the hallmark of sound effects for that entire series.

The magic of sound effects carries over into live theater as well. Prop masters and sound effect gurus spend hundreds of hours trying to get just the right sound for wind, thunder, rain, footsteps, and monsters. The list could go on and on, as the number of sound effects is so varied and wide.

There are three main purposes of sound effects that we should examine in order to understand the meaning behind the magic. Here are the top three motivations for using sound effects in live theater.

Creating a Mood

Audiences are counting on a production to take them to other places such as colonial times in Hamilton, a beachside home in Mama Mia, or the streets of France in Les Miserables. First and foremost, sound effects are meant to create a mood that can take the audience to another place – metaphysically speaking. Sound effects can create fear, anticipation, joy, laughter, or even overwhelming sadness. The mood that sounds can help create is quite amazing.

 

Simulating Reality

What would a sword fight be on stage without the sound effects and musical accompaniment? Or think about a scene where an actor is required to smash a dish, slam a door, or shoot a gun. Imagine how disconnected things would seem if the dish made no noise, the door was silent, or the gun went off without a shocking blast? Those sound effects can make or break a production especially in how they can simulate what is happening on stage and make it come alive.

Creating an Illusion

One area that sound effects become magical is how offstage sounds or soundtracks can create the illusion of something happening. For instance, in the musical The Lion King, the sounds of the jungle or other lions roaring can create the illusion that the theater is actually in a far away jungle. Or perhaps the play is trying to show a couple in an outdoor cafe. The sound effects could include a car horn, clinking dishes and glasses, or even the wind through the trees. All of this is done so the audience can buy into the illusion of the performance.

What are your favorite sound effects? We’d love to hear from you. Tell us in the comments below.

The Importance of Community Theater

As Americans, we love to be entertained. We visit sporting events, the movies, and concerts seemingly endlessly. Many Americans are hooked on theater, especially the bright lights and awe of Broadway theaters in New York City. We are here to tell you that, you don’t need to travel that far to find amazing theater productions. You can find them right in your own neighborhood, at a community theater. Community theaters are strong and vibrant!

There are so many reasons why community theater is important to our society both for the local economy and businesses as well as a place to nurture new talent. Here are just a few of the ways that community theater remains an important part of American culture.

Nurturing New Artists

Broadway stars had to start somewhere first! Just like with any job, most actors need to work their way up to the larger productions in major cities. Many successful actors, directors, writers, and choreographers have launched their careers in humble, small-town playhouses. Some have started in summer theaters or local acting workshops. By sponsoring shows and attending performances locally, you are not only supporting an important arts outlet but also providing encouragement to the cast and crew.

 

Provide a Creative Outlet

Young children have many strings pulling them in different directions. Some of those strings are unhealthy while others, like community theater, are a healthy way to act out! Community theatre provides a safe place for even the shyest or quirkiest of students. Everyone can find a place in a show whether you know how to act or build a set.

 

Business Advertising

Most community theaters have small budgets and require the help of communities, in particular, the businesses in those communities. For sponsors, community theater is a win-win situation. Not only can a business help an arts program but it can also get their name out there in the form of programs and other marketing materials to hundreds of people who visit the theater.

 

Lifelong Friendships

Not every actor who takes part in a production hopes to make it to Broadway. Many just enjoy the exhilaration of putting on a show or the lifelong friendships that are made due to long, hard hours working on something they are passionate about. You really can’t put a price on the importance of friendships in community theater.

Our backdrops have graced the stages on Broadway and the local church down the street. We understand the importance of community theater. Consider becoming a sponsor this summer or, at the very least, check out a show in your area to support the arts.

 

Recap of the 2019 Tony Awards

Did you watch the Tony’s Sunday night? What a magical and fun night! If you missed any of the action or fell asleep too early, here is a quick recap so you will know all the highlights.

The Tony’s are one of my favorite awards shows to watch not just because of the grandeur or amazing fashion statements, but also the direct and sometimes blistering acceptance speeches given by the actors, directors, and producers. Some call for greater racial and gender equality. Others point out injustices in our government and leadership. And still, others remind us what our hearts and minds should focus on in our country.

Some firsts for the Tony’s included: Ali Stroker, who won the award for best featured actress in a musical for her performance in Oklahoma!, became the first wheelchair user to receive a Tony. This year also saw the show Hadestown win the Tony for the best musical beating out film adaptations, a musical comedy, and a jukebox show. The adaptation on an ancient Greek myth touches on climate change, labor strife and, indirectly, immigration.

The full list of winners is below.
Best Musical: “Hadestown”
Best Play: “The Ferryman”
Best Revival of a Musical: “Oklahoma!”
Best Revival of a Play: “The Boys in the Band”
Best Book of a Musical: “Tootsie,” Robert Horn
Best Original Score: “Hadestown,” music and lyrics: Anaïs Mitchell
Best Direction of a Play: Sam Mendes, “The Ferryman”
Best Direction of a Musical: Rachel Chavkin, “Hadestown”
Best Leading Actor in a Play: Bryan Cranston, “Network”
Best Leading Actress in a Play: Elaine May, “The Waverly Gallery”
Best Leading Actor in a Musical: Santino Fontana, “Tootsie”
Best Leading Actress in a Musical: Stephanie J. Block, “The Cher Show”
Best Featured Actor in a Play: Bertie Carvel, “Ink”
Best Featured Actress in a Play: Celia Keenan-Bolger, “To Kill a Mockingbird”
Best Featured Actor in a Musical: André De Shields, “Hadestown”
Best Featured Actress in a Musical: Ali Stroker, “Oklahoma!”
Best Scenic Design of a Play: Rob Howell, “The Ferryman”
Best Scenic Design of a Musical: Rachel Hauck, “Hadestown”
Best Costume Design of a Play: Rob Howell, “The Ferryman”
Best Costume Design of a Musical: Bob Mackie, “The Cher Show”
Best Lighting Design of a Play: Neil Austin, “Ink”
Best Lighting Design of a Musical: Bradley King, “Hadestown”
Best Sound Design of a Play: Fitz Patton, “Choir Boy”
Best Sound Design of a Musical: Nevin Steinberg and Jessica Paz, “Hadestown”
Best Choreography: Sergio Trujillo, “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations”
Best Orchestrations: Michael Chorney and Todd Sickafoose, “Hadestown”
Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theater: Rosemary Harris, Terrence McNally, Harold Wheeler
Isabelle Stevenson Award: Judith Light
Regional Theater Tony Award: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley
Special Tony Award: Marin Mazzie, Jason Michael Webb, Sonny Tilders and Creature Technology Company
Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theater: Broadway Inspirational Voices — Michael McElroy, Founder, Peter Entin, FDNY Engine 54, Ladder 4, Battalion 9, Joseph Blakely Forbes

The Power of Student Theater Productions

Were you ever a part of a student production during middle or high school? If you were, just the mention of it probably brings back some fantastic memories of plays and musicals that your school presented. Friendships are formed, lines are memorized, and the group bonds over the excitement and anxiety of opening night!

Musical theater is a powerful art form that can transform the lives of those who take part in it, but its power is often overlooked. Many students who take part are often not aware of its impact until years later. Even students who don’t aspire to perform on Broadway can learn new skills and hone skills they already have. Compassion, problem-solving, and self-confidence are just a few of the powerful characteristics that students can improve upon during their time in theater classes or productions.

Think about the concept of playing a part in a school play. A student must not only learn the role but learn the motivation and inner thinking behind the character. This means that students learn empathy and compassion for the person they are portraying, even if that character is the antagonist.

In addition, students need to work with the entire theater group to “block out” movements on the stage, know when and where props are to be placed, and how actors should move on and off the stage. This all takes cooperation and problem-solving. These two skills will serve students well into their careers and family life later.

Improving self-confidence is another spin-off of working on the stage. Students learn to trust themselves and how to conduct themselves on stage. This definitely spills over into school life and eventually career life.

One area that we have not touched upon, and which is vital to learn, is how to accept criticism or feedback in a positive manner. In today’s social media world where it is far too easy to block people who disagree with you, learning how to take feedback from a producer or director is a critical life lesson.

The power of theater can be felt by students in so many facets of their lives. How has theater improved your life? Did it help you hone a skill or get over a fear? Tell us in the comments below.