Category Archives: Uncategorized

marquee at off broadway theater

Impact of Coronavirus on Off Broadway

It’s been a rough few months for the people who make their livelihood in the theater and entertainment industry. Think for a minute how far the shutdown order’s ripple effect on the cities and towns that rely on theaters known as Off-Broadway has been. The impact has not only been one of financial hardship but also one that eats at our country’s mental and emotional health. 

It’s not just the streets of New York City and the famed “Great White Way” that finds itself in trouble during the shut down. Other major cities that host Off-Broadway theaters, smaller “Off-off” Broadway theaters, and even, community theaters are struggling with plans for the future. 

ripple in water

The Ripple Effect

Broadway and Off-Broadway productions are like an ecosystem. Although these theaters may be in different cities and draw upon a wide range of theatergoers, they are all intertwined with each other and with other industries that support the theaters. 

Take for example a shuttered theater in the heart of the theater district in Chicago. Not only will the actors and production crew lose their livelihoods, but also the vendors that count on that theater to have regular performances. Step out a little further and think of the hotels and restaurants in the vicinity of the theaters who are losing the clientele that they rely on due to the shows that are now shuttered. In short, the closing of theaters on and off Broadway have caused a ripple effect that is impacting thousands of people who work in and around the entertainment industry. 

piggy bank

Financial and Emotional Concerns

Obviously the shuttering of theaters across the country has huge ramifications on the financial wellbeing of the people who work in the industry. Beyond the financial hardship, comes the emotional hardship that this closing of theaters has caused. 

Theater, whether it is a play, musical, or for audience entertainment like Blue Man Group provides an outlet for millions of people every year. It is fun to get dressed up, go out to dinner, and be entertained for a few hours. It is an emotional release that Americans, and dare I say the whole world, needs right now. 

If you are a theater lover and you have a theater that you love, now is the time to give a gift. Support with a donation, pre-order tickets, or support a cause like the Actors Fund that is helping to financially support many who are currently out of work in the theater industry. 

 

Broadway NYC

The Day the Lights Went Dark on Broadway 

The novel Coronavirus has all of us reeling. From the hoarding of toilet paper, to learning how to work remotely, to understanding the importance of social distancing, we all have a lot to absorb. Normal everyday things become acts that could make us all vulnerable. Going to the store, hugging a friend, and doing our jobs, have all come to a grinding halt here and across the globe. 

Places that are symbols of hope and resiliency, like New York City’s Theater District, are going dark for the sake of “flattening the curve” and attempting to slow the spread of the virus. 

Times Square NYAs of March 12, 2020, Broadway’s theaters went dark with current plans to stay that way for a month or until the immediate threat has passed. 

The decision was made for several basic reasons. The industry faced restrictions on audience size and concern from actors and audiences about health risks during the coronavirus pandemic. Therefore the industry announced that shows will be shuttered through April 12. 

While the adage, “The show must go on,” is usually synonymous with the scrappy resiliency of the theater industry. Think about it. Broadway theater has remained open through the natural disasters, depression, wars, and many dark days in our collective history. Now, for the safety and well-being of its actors and theatergoers, it has taken the drastic step to shutter their doors. 

Broadway joins Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall and the Metropolitan Museum of Art as iconic NYC art institutions that have been temporarily closed due to the overwhelming scare of the coronavirus pandemic.

The New York Times interviewed Patti LuPone, a beloved Broadway titan who has won two Tony Awards and has been performing in previews for a revival of “Company.” Her take on this was one of shock and gratitude that the theaters were closed for the health of all involved. 

coronavirusWhile this drastic move will most assuredly costs millions to the industry and potentially cause the collapse of some shows and/or theaters, the move was one that was necessary not only due to the new restrictions enacted by Governor Cuomo, but also for the common sense reason of maintaining safe distance between theatergoers and actors/crew members. 

Regardless of the duration of the closings and how many theater companies will fare in the end, one thing is for certain – theater will survive this test. Patrons will need an outlet, a laugh, or to shed a tear when this virus has seen its course. While the show “can not go on” as planned right now, they will be back. 

 

How to Light a Scrim

Creating that bleed-through effect should only seem like magic to the audience.   However, lighting technicians need to wave their magic wands to create this seamless effect.  The best kind of scrim to use for bleed throughs is the Sharkstooth Scrim.  Sharkstooth is a flame retardant 100% cotton close-knit netting fabric. Consider Sharkstooth Scrim the invisibility cloak of the stage.

When Sharkstooth Scrim is lit from the front at an oblique angle and the area behind the scrim is dark, the scrim appears to be opaque. However, when the scene behind the scrim is illuminated it becomes “visible” and if the lights on the front of the scrim are removed, the scrim becomes virtually “invisible.”

Here’s a few tips to properly light a Sharkstooth Scrim.

First, any light behind the scrim will reflect on the scene that the scrim is trying to hide and allows the audience to see it.  For the scrim to be most effective, the area behind it must be completely dark.  Of course, the brighter the lighting on the scrim, the less likely that anyone will see a glimmer or gleam shining from behind the scrim.  Still, every effort should be made to keep the area behind the scrim completely dark until the reveal occurs.

Second, proper angle of the LIGHTING IS CRITICAL.  If the area is as dark as possible, but the scene is still visible through the lit scrim, then consider the angle of the lighting.  Ideally, the lighting on the scrim is at such a steep angle that it cannot possibly illuminate the scene behind it.  Also, when you touch a sharkstooth scrim, one side is fairly smooth and the other has more texture.  This does not affect the use of the scrim, but more texture gives the light extra surface area to touch and is slightly more visible to the audience.

Create an area of space between the scrim and any nearby scenery so that any light that spills through the scrim will not hit anything and won’t show to the audience.  The most common way to achieve this is to have strip lighting directly in front of the scrim’s top.  The majority of the light from the strips washes the front of the scrim and any excess light that shines through into the empty space between the scrim and the scenery is not visible.

Third, while not necessary, having blackout drapes behind the scrim will help hide the scenery behind it.  If you have extra batons and a spare blackout drape, you can ensure that the audience will not see the hidden scenery by hanging the drape about a foot behind the scrim at the upstage edge and flying it out moments before the bleed-through.  You will still need to control the spill upstage or the blackout drop will be visible, most particularly as it flies just before the bleed-through begins.

While having the proper lighting angles is paramount, knowing how NOT to light the scrim is useful too.  Lighting from the front will certainly light the scrim, but it will also light everything behind the scrim as well. This is because the sharkstooth scrim is essentially a series of holes tied together. When lit from the front, the holes will let the lighting continue upstage and illuminate everything behind the scrim. Lighting from a balcony is also not an ideal position, as it may provide the maximum visibility of the scrim and the images behind it, for those who are sitting in the orchestra.

Equally important in making the scrim work is effectively lighting the scene behind the scrim.  If you want the scrim to disappear when the dissolve is complete, the lighting for the scene to be exposed must all come from behind the scrim.  Any lighting in front of the scrim may show the upstage scene, but will also continue to illuminate the scrim and any scenery painted on it.  While this may be the desired effect that you are looking to achieve, for the scrim to disappear, it cannot be lit.  The scene lighting should come upstage of the scrim or from side positions that are upstage from the scrim.

Types of Theatrical Scrims

Sharkstooth Scrim is an open weave net, meaning that there is more open space than actual fabric. Sharkstooth Scrim is primarily used to achieve the “bleed through” effect; magically revealing items upstage of the scrim. When lit properly, Sharkstooth Scrim can appear either opaque or transparent. These effects are then used to perform conceals and reveals. Sharkstooth Scrim can also be used to create the illusion of distance. It is considered the best option as an all purpose scrim.

Bobbinettes have a more open weave than Sharkstooth Scrim. Often used in combination with Sharkstooth scrims in front of rear projection screens to reduce glare and increase contrast. Various weaves give designers a range of light transmission values to create depth and add a soft, hazy look to images.

 

 

Leno or leno-filled scrim can be described as “sharkstooth scrim with the holes filled in.” Leno has a lovely soft, textured surface that reflects light beautifully, thus making it ideal for a cyclorama or a bounce drop. Like the sharkstooth scrim, it has one surface that is more textured and one that is smoother; in general, the textured side should face  the audience to take advantage of the extra surface dimension. Leno-filled scrims are also ideal for projecting abstract shapes and patterns, due to their highly reflective surface. The texture, however, will mitigate high resolutions, and so leno is not the best surface for video projection.

What Are the Longest Running Broadway Shows? 

If you are a theater lover then you probably have a mental list of your favorite shows that includes when you saw them, and where. Shows can stay with us for a long time and leave a lasting impression on our lives. But what are those shows, especially the performances that lasted the longest on Broadway? 

In order to make it to Broadway, a show must prove itself. There is no “one” surefire way to make it to the Great White Way, but many start off as Off-Broadway productions, in Summer Theaters, or as part of a Workshop. Once a show makes it on to the famed street, there is no guarantee that it will last. That’s why it is amazing the number of shows that have stood the test of time in Broadway Theaters. 

Broadway theaterPhantom of the Opera 

One of our favorite shows that has lasted over two decades is Phantom of the Opera. It has run for well over twelve thousand shows. The classic tale that was first a novel by Gaston Leroux is also known for the genius songwriting of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Phantom is still running and continues to entertain countless New York residents and visitors and will for years to come.

Chicago 

This show has been trying to move into the number one spot held by Phantom for years. First opening at the 46th Street Theatre, the first Broadway production of Chicago opened in June of 1975. It has since seen a revival which took place in 1996. It opened at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, and this production instantly received much more critical acclaim than the original production. Currently, Chicago’s revival holds the title of longest running revival on Broadway. 

Chicago Musical

The Lion King 

This show first made its appearance in Minneapolis in the fall of 1997 at the New Amsterdam Theatre. The Disney adaptation from the film has since moved to NYC and sits on the list of highest-grossing at the box office. The combination of Elton John’s musical hits and the original costume designs make this one of the longest running shows at 7,883 performances and counting. 

Cats 

This feline-centered performance once held the spot as London’s longest-running musical until Les Misérables took its place in 2006. Cats has actually seen a revival, just like other popular shows that have made their way back to the stage. The original production saw 6,138 shows over the course of 18 years and closed in 2000. Recently the musical has seen a massive revival that is still running today and continues to break records at the box office, recently pulling in more than a million dollars in just a week.

What is your favorite long-running Broadway musical? We love so many but would love to hear about yours! Drop us a line in the comments or on our Facebook page

 

The Impact of Lighting Design 

Think of the last time you walked into a theater. Do you remember the initial feeling you had when the curtain rose? Were you tense, happy, scared, excited, or relaxed? Believe it or not, the lighting probably set the tone for the remainder of the theater experience you had. In fact, psychological studies have shown us that color and lighting has a huge impact on our mood and overall well-being and that lighting experts have been using this knowledge for years to enhance our theater experience. Let’s take a closer look at the impact of lighting design. 

At any given moment our senses are collecting hundreds of pieces of information about our environment. The colors, smells, sights, temperature, feel, and so many more components go into how we interact with or feel about the world around us. The same goes for our experiences in the theater. 

Imagine you walk into a theater where there are dark shadows that cover the stage, shabby furnishings scattered around, and actors that are dressed in ragged clothing. Your initial impression may be one of concern, fear, or curiosity. Imagine the same theater, this time with bright lighting, colorful backgrounds, and actors who are singing happily. Your sensory input has dramatically changed, right? That is how the theater can use colors and light to change how theatergoers experience the show. 

Direction of Light 

One aspect that lighting design experts have to consider when setting a mood on a stage is the direction of the light. For example, if the lighting team is trying to create a scene with tension they may want direct light from above to shine on the main action on the stage while darkening the rest of the area. Another example would be creating low or dim lighting to add a sense of mystery, privacy, or intimacy. Lighting the walls, ceiling, and props can give a sense of spaciousness as well as direct your attention to the portion of the stage where the action is the greatest. 

The Type of Lighting 

Theatergoers know that the lighting team can create all sorts of emotions depending upon the type of light they use. For example, a spotlight can draw your attention right to the main action during a monologue to important action that is occurring on stage. Colored filters can be used with this lamp to change the overall mood as well. 

A floodlight gives a wide area where action can occur on the stage. A strobe is a flashing light, that is used for special effects. It’s often used to give the effect of old movies. It produces a jerky effect on the movements of actors when used on its own.

Lights can be useful for defining different locations on the stage, creating mood and atmosphere, highlighting key moments of action, and directing the audience’s focus. Lighting can denote the time of year or day and can also be used in an abstract or symbolic way, such as using a red light to symbolize danger or passion. How does your theater use lighting? Give us some tips in the comments. 

 

It’s UDMA Trade Show Season

The end of summer not only brings a new school year for dance studios, but it also begins the dance trade show season.  We will be attending UDMA, United Dance Merchants of America, trade show in Edison NJ on the weekend of October 19-20.  UDMA has three other dates as well.  They are in Atlanta this weekend (9/28-29), Pittsburgh 10/5-6 (next weekend), and Chicago 10/12-13.  Here’s a link to their website:  https://www.udma.org/

 

The show features merchants who cover all aspects of the dance industry.  Some of the categories that are present are costume companies, dancewear, shoes, flowers, videographers, photographers, tours, flooring, dance opportunities, trophies, competitions and conventions, recital ticketing, publications, and backdrops too, of course!  Anything you can think of that has to do with the dance industry will be at these shows. Not only are there vendor exhibits but there are also presentations, give aways, and seminars.

 

It really is a great opportunity to check out new technology and new products.  The costume companies typically have live models wearing their latest costume designs so that you can see the new fashions in living, moving color.  We have an actual backdrop in our booth so that customers can see and feel what our product is like.  Each vendor will have real examples of their product so that you will know exactly what you’ll be getting.  There is no doubt that you can improve your business and productions by attending one of these shows.  We hope to see you in New Jersey for sure, but we hope that you can make it to one of the shows.

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.

Planning for Spring Productions

Though it’s still February and there may even be snow on the ground, spring is soon approaching, and it will sneak up on us before we know it. February is a great time to start considering your productions for the spring, as the choice and selection of the production is a production in itself! You’ll want to give yourself as long as possible during the consideration stage, tossing out ideas among the team, and discussing budget/feasibility. Read through this blog for tips on planning the spring production.

 

First, begin with ordering a few scripts that you’re interested in. Read through the scripts with the group, and see how everyone feels about the leads, supporting roles, duration of the play, and see what the set would take to build. Be sure the script falls within your budget and timeframe.

Then you can start seeing which of your actors would be interested in auditioning for which roles. Hold read-throughs to see who fits most naturally with which character. When you cast your group and establish your crew, you can take the time to think about budgeting, staging, different scenes, choreography, and music. Some of these elements will be worked through with your director, but during the planning stage, be sure you have everything you need before you begin.

 

As you work through each scene with your director, you’ll notice some things that don’t quite work and other things that work quite well. You’ll have to make some changes as you go, but this is all part of the process.

Many theater organizations hire an outside choreographer or someone to come in and help with direction. Depending on the size and funding available of your organization, this might be a good option for you. Drama clubs often rent backdrops, props, curtains, and more from rental companies. Sets can be difficult and timely to build, so when theater organizations don’t have all of the resources needed in-house, they can rent props to make productions look beautiful, detailed, and complete.

 

It may seem overwhelming when you dive into planning a new show for a new season. Though it is a process, don’t be overwhelmed, as there are many resources and planning tips to help you through. Take things slowly, and plan every detail so your cast and crew are ready to deliver an amazing opening night performance.

 

woods scene backdrop

 

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. We are here to serve all your backdrop and scenic design needs.

Backdrops By Charles H. Stewart Acquires DreamWorld Backdrops

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Charles Stewart
(978) 682-5757
info@charlesstewart.com

BACKDROPS BY CHARLES H. STEWART ACQUIRES DREAMWORLD BACKDROPS
Now With 400 Additional Backdrops Available In Inventory

NORTH ANDOVER, Massachusetts – (February 6, 2019) – Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart has been a fundamental resource to the world of backdrops and design, offering 120 years of expertise. As of January 2019, Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart acquired DreamWorld Backdrops. DreamWorld Backdrops holds an extensive collection of original, airbrushed, and digitally printed backdrops.

Now owned and operated by Charles H. Stewart, the acquisition of DreamWorld Backdrops is groundbreaking. With 400 additional backdrops now in the inventory, Stewart is ready to deliver an even wider variety of backdrops to clients. The intricate backdrops are designed to accommodate most high-quality productions for theaters, schools, dance recitals, and corporate events.

Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart was opened in 1893 and operated continuously as a family-run business, first under Charles Stewart and then his son, Stanley. In 1990, the Christo family bought the business after a five-year apprenticeship under Stanley’s tutelage and has run it ever since.

The addition of DreamWorld Backdrops supports the family’s belief, and this is evident through a quote from Stanley in a 1983 Boston Globe article. He summarized the backdrop business when he said, “In our warehouse, you see 900 boxes filled with backdrops; what I see is life in those boxes—live performance, artistic expression, and background support for some of the greatest shows you’ll ever see.”

The idea of ‘Life In Backdrops’ is the epitome of this new life and new growth for Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart. Busier than ever with the acquisition, the Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart inventory is now home to roughly 2,000 hand-painted backdrops. This allowed Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart to continue the dream of supporting theater, the arts, and communities alike.

###

DreamWorld Backdrops has been a dynamic force in the airbrushed, hand painted, and digitally printed backdrop business in the U.S. since its inception in 1999. Its reputation for superior quality Backdrops along with personalized service has made it a leader in its field. Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart is a family-owned business supporting theatrical needs to enhance productions. With over 2,000 backdrops, drapes, lames, and scrims to choose from, they have over 120 years of experience to provide you with the expertise you need. For more information regarding the acquisition, please call Backdrops by Charles H. Stewart at (978) 682-5757.