Category Archives: Tips

Tips for More Efficient Set Designs

Set design is one of the most important aspects of the production. The set design team has the responsibility of creating a dynamic set that not only agrees with the consistent theme and genre of the production but is also easy to lift and quick to assemble and disassemble. Read this blog to learn how you can better design your set for efficiency, functionality and, ultimately, success.

Before you dive into what you need and want for your next set design, decide what you don’t need and want. Rid the possibility of any clutter in your set design or on your stage, as it’s distracting to the audience and can get in the way of your production. Every piece, prop, and accessory is placed on set for a reason! Don’t include unnecessary or superfluous items in your set. Decide what you really need, and scratch the small details that you think are unimportant to the plot of the story.

 

 

Think about the size and weight of your props. Heavy props may lead to someone tripping, dropping something, or causing an accident on set. When props are included in any scenes, lightweight materials really come in handy. Heavy props can make it look like the actor is struggling to move or pick up something, and you wouldn’t want them to struggle or stumble. As the curtain is up, ensure all main props used by actors are light enough and easy to manage.

 

 

Investing in materials that are lightweight will allow for ease and efficiency throughout every aspect of the production. It makes switching scenes a breeze for the set and crew. When your materials are lighter, the team can move more quickly and easily. This keeps your audience more engaged with less waiting time between scenes and transitions. Consider lightweight wood, plastic materials, and props that can hang or be put in place effortlessly.

 

 

Consider your stage, the seating of your audience, and the auditorium you’ll be in when performing. This will help you plan your set design. You want to make sure your props are visible from all angles and seats in the house.

 

 

If you’re looking for a backdrop to put the finishing touch on your set design, consider renting a backdrop. Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart are easy to hang, durable, lightweight, and absolutely stunning. You can find a backdrop for almost any production imaginable in the inventory.

 

Think outside the box with your set design. Just because your props will be lightweight and easy to manage does not mean they can’t be intricate and unique. Decide on a theme for your set design. Are you going with the “less is more” theme? Or are you going to include simple yet multiple props in every scene? Each production will entail a different set design.

 

Did you enjoy this blog? Share this to your Facebook feed, and let us know what you think. Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 120 years! Come to us with your theatrical needs to enhance your production with well over 1,500 backdrops, drapes, lames, and scrims to choose from.

 

Answering Basic Questions

  • What suggestions do you have on choosing a backdrop for a dance or for a whole dance recital?

Obviously, the first question to be answered is what is the theme of the dance or show?  Once that is determined, finding an appropriate backdrop is relatively easy.  Our backdrops are broken down into categories and by show.  So if someone is looking for a garden backdrop, they should go to our Garden category.  If someone needs a backdrop for Beauty and the Beast, then they can go to our Beauty and the Beast selections.

  • If a studio owner can only have one backdrop for the entire show, what would you recommend?

If only one backdrop can be used, then the owner really has to decide what the overall theme for their show will be.  We could provide a great backdrop for a small portion of their show, but the backdrop might not fit the rest of the show.  My suggestion is that if there is more tap, jazz, and hip hop, then one of our abstract or novelty backdrops would be an excellent choice.  If the show is more of a ballet, maybe a softer scene like clouds or a sunset for example would be the choice.  Another option would be to use different colored lights on a cyclorama curtain.  A simple lighting change can turn the mood of the stage in an instant.  But again, it really is up to the director.

  • What information and dimensions do studio owners need to know before renting a backdrop?

The first thing they should do is talk to the stage manager where they are performing.  They can tell you what size backdrops the venue can accommodate.  Also, when finding out the dimensions of the stage, make sure that when you get the measurements to ask if that is the wall to wall measurement or the proscenium measurement.  Also, ask if the venue can adjust the proscenium for different size backdrops.  For instance, if the venue states that the backdrops should be 22×50, ask if they can mask down the proscenium for an 18×42 or even a 15×36.  It usually isn’t that difficult to drop a border or pull in the wings unless the battens are dead hung (i.e. they don’t drop to the stage).   Now if it’s a small stage, the larger backdrops might be difficult to use.  Another bit of information that would be helpful is to find out how many battens are at your disposal for hanging backdrops.

  • What is the difference between a hand painted and digitally painted backdrop?  What are the pros/cons of each?

Well, we only deal in hand painted backdrops.  Obviously, the hand painted backdrops are more theatrical since they really are a form of art.  Sometimes the digitally printed backdrops aren’t as clear as you might think.  Some can be a little blurry.  The fabrics used for each are different as well.  The hand painted backdrops are typically painted on muslin or scrims and are easy to fold and store.  The digital backdrops are usually printed on a polyester blend fabric and are meant to be rolled.  However, new technology with softer fabrics is starting to emerge.  The digital backdrops are more expensive to produce and not readily available for rent meaning if you want a digital printed backdrop, it would more than likely have to be a custom made one.

  • What are your tips on hanging backdrops for studio owners that have never done so before?  How does a backdrop get hung and what do studio owners need to know ahead of time?

All of our backdrops have grommets and ties across the top for hanging.  You simply tie the backdrop on to one of the stage battens.  One question to ask the stage manager is if the bars can lower down to the stage.  If they do, hanging a backdrop will take about 5-10 minutes.  If the bars do not lower to the stage, then you will have to go up and down a ladder or cherry picker to hang the backdrop, and it will take about 30 minutes to hang one backdrop.  Side note, if you use a cherry picker, please be careful of the lubricated parts of the machine.  If a backdrop comes in contact with the grease, the backdrop will get stained.  And it’s a nasty stain to try to get out.  When hanging, start from the center and work your way out to the ends.  The center line on the backdrop is marked on the back.  The center of the stage should be marked on the bars.  If you have more backdrop than bar, just fold it back and tie it off behind the rest of the drop.

  • What tips do you have to have backdrops look best without wrinkles?

Wrinkles are tricky.  You cannot iron or steam the backdrop.  That will damage the curtain by activating the paint creating water stains or paint runs.  So, my best advice is to hang the backdrop at the venue as soon as possible.  The first chance you get to hang them up, do it.  Second thing to do is make sure that you weight the bottom of the backdrop.  All of my backdrops have a pipe pocket along the bottom.  Ask the venue if they have weights for this.  The weight simply uses gravity to pull the fabric tight to eliminate the wrinkles.

  • How should backdrops be folded for storage or return shipping?

We store our backdrops wrapped in plastic bags inside of cardboard boxes.  The plastic is an extra layer of protection from moisture and dirt.  So when the backdrops are received, they will arrive as such.  There will also be folding instructions inside the box.  There are different ways to fold a backdrop.  We have our own preference which are included in the instructions we provide.  But, the bottom line is to fold them neatly so that they fit back inside the box for shipping.  We also request that our backdrops be placed back inside of a plastic bag and inside the box just like when they received it.  If anything happens in transit, and the backdrop has not been wrapped in plastic and damage has occurred, the customer will be responsible for the damage.  So, when you receive the backdrop, save the box, the bag, and the instructions and repackage the backdrop the way you received it.  If the bag and/or box gets thrown away or is not fit for shipping, then the customer is responsible to get another box and bag for the return.  And lastly, before you lay the backdrop on the stage for hanging or when you are taking it down to repackage, sweep the stage.  We don’t want the backdrop used as the broom especially when you have any of the white or black curtains.

Stagefright? We’ve Got You Covered.

actors in character on stage

We’ve all heard of picturing the audience in their underwear when a performer is nervous or suffering from stage fright. But this is usually for advice when giving presentations or announcements. The truth is… it is not common to think that actors get stage fright because they are always on stage, and they’re constantly acting in front of crowds. Let’s dive deeper into what it means to have stage fright, and how actors can prepare to reduce obstacles on stage.

An Actor with Stagefright?
The common association with actors is generally that they have extroverted personality types, are talkative, friendly, and personable when in communicating. In reality, every actor is different- and personality type does not dictate acting style. Sometimes, different scenarios, roles, audiences, and stage locations cause stage fright. If your significant other is in the crowd, you may be nervous or act/perform differently than you normally do. If your entire family is present, or if you know you’re being observed, it’s natural for these to cause stagefright. A particular stage design may be uncomfortable or foreign to you. There are a number of reasons to be nervous, but plenty of ways to feel assured as well.

Staying Calm Through Preparation
Anxiety has a lot to do with stage fright. You can go through a calm routine before performances to help reduce stage fright. Confronting anxieties before a performance is always recommended. Is everything in place in the dressing room? Is the crew prepared? These types of issues can be handled beforehand to prevent small worries. Don’t think about questions like “Is the front of the house full? Are we sold out?” These types of questions will only stress you out and add to the stagefright. Only think of preparations that make the show run, that need to be in place for you to play your role.

Perfecting Skills in Practice
Rehearsal is the time to ask your director questions about your techniques. If you’re unsure or feel insecure about something, ask enough questions in rehearsal so you know what your character looks like, and you know to make necessary adjustments to your performance. You can’t ask enough questions when learning a role. The more questions you ask about your lines and your appearance, the more confident you will be to perform your truest character possible.

spotlight on stage

Peer Support & Perspective
Asking your cast and crew for their assessment and opinions during rehearsal can allow you an outside perspective on your character. Try asking your peers if your character appeals to emotion, logic, and reason to see if you are credible and believable as your role. If anything sticks out as improper, inappropriate, or misplaced in your character’s performance, have them point out these flaws. The more precisely you receive feedback on your performance, the more confidence you will feel in your role and the less likely you will get nervous on stage.

Most actors’ insecurities on stage come from overthinking small details or a lack of preparation. If you cover your rudimentary bases through peer support, rehearsal, and preparation, then you will most likely perform to the best of your abilities.

Teas, Honeys, and Other Natural Remedies for Sore Throats

honey in pot

When you’re preparing for opening night, your body is stressed. Running around from errands to rehearsal, while also trying to solidify lines and memorization takes a toll on your body. If your show is coming up, but you feel yourself slightly coming down with a sore throat, there are ways to feel better fast so that you can perform your best. Read through this blog if you’re looking for ways to soothe a sore throat or cold in time for opening night.

Actors often find themselves coming down with something as the big night approaches. When we’re stressed, our immune systems are lowered and we’re susceptible to catching colds. But, as always, “the show must go on!”

tea and saucer on table

Double Water and Vitamin Intake
The first step to action when realizing you’re coming down with something is to double your water intake. To be able to power through, your body will need to be extremely hydrated. Extra vitamins like Vitamin D, C, and E as well as zinc and iron pills can help you feel rejuvenated and energized when your body is struggling. The best way to get natural vitamins is by eating fruits.

Local Honey
Warm, local honey is a go-to throat soother. Using local honey helps your body become accustomed to the allergens in the air, and helps your immune system find balance when you digest the honey. Honey helps to coat your throat for protection and ease.


Stretch
Your vocal chords are muscles and can be stretched and worked out. Be VERY cautious when stretching your muscles and voice when you’re sick or have a sore throat, and if you’re not comfortable, do not push it to perform. Any vocal coach will tell you that taking chances and pushing it is very dangerous for your voice, and you would not want to risk your ability to perform.

Herbal Teas
Chamomile and lavender teas have great healing effects and can help immensely with treating sore throats. Teas with sage, thyme, lemon balm, and even hops can be soothing on the throat and can help with protection. With a little lemon and honey melted in the tea, you will definitely feel better and find yourself recovering from your cold more quickly.

Gargle Salt Water
Lastly, gargle salt water before bedtime. This helps your throat overnight when you sleep, as warm, salty water helps reduce swelling, flushes bacteria, and helps with protection.

As the saying goes,”The show must go on.” We understand that it can be stressful preparing for a role, and catching a cold is inevitable. Take these steps toward getting over a sore throat or simple cold before you have to perform, but remember, don’t push yourself. And if you are truly sick beyond a head cold, seek medical attention from your primary care doctor.

Breaking the 4th Wall

 

red stage curtains

The theater world is full of intricate terms and techniques. These ultimately help actors to perform their roles to the best of their abilities. One term used commonly among thespians is “breaking the 4th wall.” Let’s take a look at what this means, and how these terms help to keep actors focused and in tune with their character.

First, let’s get a visual of the fourth wall in our heads: picture yourself on stage, with the back curtain behind you and the two wings on each side of you. Think of these as your ‘walls.’ The fourth wall would be the invisible wall that connects you to the audience.

acting on stage

We use the term ‘breaking’ the fourth wall when we’re talking about interacting with the audience. Actors almost never want to break the fourth wall unless it’s a clearly defined moment in the script. If you break the fourth wall, this would mean you slipped up, and accidentally came out of character. Don’t worry, there are techniques you can practice to avoid this!

kid actors

Actors avoid breaking the fourth wall by always keeping a center of attention. Some actors will fixate their attention either on the back wall of the theatre auditorium, or on another specific location. Focusing their attention, and acting like they are delivering their role directly to that specific spot helps tremendously.

lights can be distracting

Many things can be distracting as an actor: lights, camera flashes (even though photography is usually prohibited, there are always those few guests) motion, people standing, and loud noises. Not breaking the fourth wall can be a challenge when acting in front of a large crowd, but that’s why actors work so hard on passion, delivery, and attention.

standing ovation

Many of the audience members are really enveloped in the show, and want to be involved with the characters as much as possible throughout their viewing experience. Some guests will try to get the attention of the actors while on stage, wave their hands, or even call out characters’ names (as very unadvised in previous blog, A Guide to Theatre Etiquette). Actors try their best to stay on script, and keep things running as smoothly as possible despite these distractions.

If you’re an actor, there are many things you can do to help practice avoiding breaking the fourth wall. Avoid audience eye contact, and focus on your next move. When rehearsing, and during dress rehearsal even more so, pick your focus point in the auditorium and have it already decided before the show.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 100 years. Planning your next production? Reach out to us today for questions and more information: https://charleshstewart.com/

A Guide to Theatre Etiquette

 

Theater audience

Going to see a theatre production is a favorite of many. If you’re an avid theatre goer, or a thespian yourself, this blog will explore obvious commonalities for you. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand theatre etiquette easily, but this is understandable as the environment is particular and unique. When you go to one production, it’s hard to pick up the etiquette on your first time. If you love theatre, but don’t know how to assimilate with the crowd, check out the list we’ve compiled of the basics.

 

interacting with crowd

Dress well. You don’t have to go overboard, but you should definitely feel confident. Look nice and feel nice. If you’re wearing a hat, take it off as soon as you enter the house. Avoid distracting clothing, and heavy perfume or cologne. Theaters are designed beautifully and regally, so dress like you belong there.A

Sit quietly. No fidgeting, eating snacks, falling asleep, snoring, or leaning your head. If you’re bored or uninterested, you probably shouldn’t be there.

Don’t create distractions. Distractions include singing along, getting out of your seat other than at intermission, and letting a cell phone buzz or ring.

Respect the space of others. Sit respectfully and keep to yourself. Don’t take your shoes off or get comfortable like you’re in a movie theatre. Though you are enjoying yourself too, remember that you are in a professional space supporting a cause.

Be appreciative. This includes clapping only when appropriate, and giving a standing ovation at the end of the production. Only clap or interact with actors when they ‘break the fourth wall’ or, in other words, interact with you.

Actors on stage

Actors and theatre goers will think everything on this list is absolutely unnecessary. If you’re going to a production and want to brief a friend, send them to this blog! If you know someone who doesn’t understand theatre etiquette and needs to see this list in writing, share our blog so your followers can read through. Theatre etiquette isn’t strict without a reason – it creates an environment in which actors can thrive and perform their best. If you don’t agree with theatre etiquette, maybe Broadway is not the place for you, and that’s okay! But when attending a show, you must abide by theatre culture and respect your environment.  

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been your leading-edge scenic design and backdrop rental company for over 100 years. We can help you find the perfect backdrops and accessories for any production. Reach out to us for questions at (978) 682-5757.

Choosing Your Next Production

Cast on Stage

If you have a theater group and you’re constantly putting on productions, read on for inspiration in choosing your next production. We’ve put together a guide to choosing your next production for your theater community. Here are a few things we think are important to think about when brainstorming your possibilities:

Anastasia

Deciding on the Type of Production
Do you want to do a musical? Do you want to do a situational comedy or a dramatic play? Do you want to perform a greek tragedy? A historical play or a romantic play? There are many subsets of plays and types of productions. When you narrow down your goal, you can then choose a script.

Thinking of your Actors
Deciding on a play depends on your strengths and weaknesses as a theater community. Sometimes the tell-tale signs of your next production can be evident through your actors’ strong suits. Make sure you have the right type of actors available to be matched with the right roles.

Spider-Man

Accessing a Script
Be sure you have access to ordering scripts for your community. Are there enough scripts available for the production of your choice? Be sure that you’re choosing from plays that are accessible, and that you have the rights to get ahold of the script.

Look to your Inventory
Looking at the props you already have and the props you need to buy can help you decide on your next production. If you have a smaller budget, and it’s always helpful for theater communities to spend as little as possible, you can look at what you already own. You may not need to buy much if you have a good selection and you use a little creativity.

Tarzan

Time and Duration
Think about how much time each production will take to rehearse and choreograph. You need to think about time from the beginning of your first rehearsal to your last dress rehearsal. Be sure that the plays you’re considering all fall within your time frame for preparation.  

Set Hands and Available Crew
Some productions take more help behind the scenes and backstage. Other productions require less stage help and more actors on stage. Every production is different, so being sure you have enough set hands and available help is something you’ll definitely want to think through before choosing a play.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart can provide you with the best quality backdrops for your productions. Visit our website to check out our inventory, and reach out to our staff with any questions.